When President Obama’s economic team said the fiscal 2014 budget would seek to “hit the fiscal sweet spot,” they probably weren’t referring to the sour reactions the plan has drawn from an array of federal employee unions.
Soon after the document was released on Wednesday, President Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said, “It is outrageous to see the federal workforce targeted once again despite the massive contribution employees already are making to deficit reduction.”
Her group opposes Obama’s plan of a 1.2 percent hike over three years in employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, and was less than thrilled with the president’s plan for a 1 percent federal pay hike. “This is simply inadequate, particularly in light of what will become the end of 2013 a three-year pay freeze,” Kelley added: “It is time to get the federal pay raise back on track.”
Obama’s budget also would shift costs of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to require employees to pay more in order to save the government $8.4 billion over a decade while also seeking to modernize the program. The Office of Personnel “would be given authority to make adjustments to premiums based on an enrollee's tobacco use and/or participation in a wellness program," the proposal said. Union officials said they worried the government could charge higher rates to sick or obese employees.
In testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and the Census, Jacqueline Simon, public policy director at the American Federation of Government Employees, said, “With federal pay frozen for three straight years, massive tax increases on FERS employees via increased retirement contributions, and furloughs of up to 14 days that may be repeated each year for the next decade, federal employees cannot withstand any more reductions in their compensation.” The administration, she added, “calls this ‘modernization’ of benefits; we call it cannibalization.”
William Dougan, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, blasted the budget’s proposed hike in pension contributions and elimination of the FERS annuity supplement as well has proposed changes to the formula for calculating Social Security and other benefits. “It’s clear today that Washington has abandoned federal employees,” Dougan said, adding that his union also considers the 1 percent pay raise proposal insufficient. “The White House has said time and time again that they value the contributions federal workers make to their country, but this budget tells a different story entirely,” he said. “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”
Another thumbs down came from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, whose president Joseph Beaudoin attacked the so-called “Chained CPI” proposal to change benefits by saying, “Enough is Enough!” He said “pay freezes, furloughs, sequestration, understaffing and the stress of a looming government shutdown are exacting a heavy toll from the nation’s 4.6 million active and retired federal employees. Committed and talented people are needed in federal jobs,” he added. But “budgets like the one released today by the White House could make federal jobs dangerously noncompetitive.”