Unions Warn of Low Morale, Retirement Wave Amid Continued Budget Uncertainty

“Federal employees are not going to forget what happened in the last 16 days,” NTEU's Colleen Kelley said. “They are concerned about what the future will hold.” “Federal employees are not going to forget what happened in the last 16 days,” NTEU's Colleen Kelley said. “They are concerned about what the future will hold.” AFGE

This story has been updated. 

Federal employees returning to work after the 16-day government shutdown are dealing with low morale, increased workloads and uncertainty about future funding, the leader of a federal employee union said Thursday.

These factors will motivate eligible employees to retire, Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said on a conference call. For those who remain, NTEU has set a series of four priorities to mitigate the negative impact of the shutdown.

NTEU emphasized that as feds made their way back into their offices Thursday, they were forced to deal with the backlog of work that piled up during the shutdown while also keeping an eye on the next deadline.

“Federal employees are not going to forget what happened in the last 16 days,” Kelley said. “They are concerned about what the future will hold.”

On a separate call Thursday, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox also said employees returned to work with apprehension about the future.

“They are not breaking out the party hats,” Cox said. 

First among NTEU’s priorities, the union hopes to ensure the timely delivery of retroactive compensation for federal employees whose paychecks were withheld during the shutdown. Most employees -- including those who were working but not getting paid on time and those who were furloughed -- will receive the back pay in their next paychecks on Oct. 25. Kelley said she was fighting to bump up that schedule.

Cox also called for the immediate issuance of back pay, and said the Social Security Administration has already agreed to run a separate payroll delivery early next week. 

The unions will also monitor re-immersion in the workplace to ensure agencies do not put undue pressure on their employees. NTEU plans to keep up the pressure on Congress to fund government for the rest of the fiscal year, as the current continuing resolution agreed to late Wednesday night only keeps government operating through Jan. 15.

Absent a broader budget deal “this could all happen again,” Kelley said. She added Congress should eliminate sequestration cuts and appropriate sufficient funds to allow agencies to accomplish their missions.

As lawmakers strive to reach such a deal, federal employees should not again fall victim to efforts to reduce federal spending.

“Federal employees have suffered way too much already,” Kelley said.

This suffering has not been without consequence. Employees who are eligible to retire will walk away because they “don’t want to go through this again in January,” Kelley said. The empty seats will then go unfilled, as federal agencies are using attrition to cut their workforces, she added.

Also on the unions’ radar is President Obama’s plan to raise federal employees’ pay by 1 percent in 2014, which the shutdown deal allows to go into effect. While Congress can still block the measure, AFGE said staffers on the House Appropriations Committee do not expect a challenge. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.