Despite seeming to waffle over the idea, President Trump will implement the first pay freeze since 2013. Congress could still override the decision.
After months of speculation, President Trump followed through on a March proposal and instituted a pay freeze for federal civilian employees.
In an executive order issued Friday, Trump confirmed that pay rates would remain stagnant next year for non-military federal workers. The news comes despite statements from the president in September that he would “study” whether to provide feds with a pay raise after all.
By contrast, members of the military services will receive a 2.6 percent raise in 2019.
In the hours following the issuance of the order, it was unclear what Trump’s decision actually was. Although the order was issued around 4 p.m., it made no mention of how it would impact federal pay, and documents confirming the pay freeze were not available until around 7 p.m. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Office of Personnel Management employees who worked on the pay tables for the Federal Salary Council were furloughed as the result of the partial government shutdown.
Although the order means that federal workers will not receive a raise in January, hope for a pay increase is not lost. Democratic lawmakers have said they plan to overrule the decision and give federal workers a 1.9 percent pay increase once they take control of the House, retroactive to the beginning 2019. The raise would need to be added to the legislation lawmakers pass to break the stalemate over spending that has resulted in a partial government shutdown.
Earlier in December, the Office of Personnel Management finalized several new locality pay areas for inclusion next year. But without an increase to locality pay, the new locality pay areas won't make a difference this year.
The National Treasury Employees Union decried the pay freeze order. “This is just pouring salt into the wound,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a statement. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay [during the partial shutdown] were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”