In the midst of a partial government shutdown leaving thousands of federal workers without paychecks, President Donald Trump added insult to injury on Friday by signing an executive order that would freeze pay for federal employees next year.
According to Roll Call, Trump foreshadowed the move in his budget request earlier this year in which he proposed denying raises to about 2.1 million federal civilian workers.
That plan was confirmed by a formal announcement in August required to head off steep pay raises that would automatically take effect under a 1990 law, which presidents of both parties routinely override.
“We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to congressional leaders. “These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well‑qualified Federal workforce.”
The move was seen as especially harsh coming as about 800,000 federal workers have been negatively impacted by the shutdown.
“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 100,000 federal workers. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”
Though the continuing resolution Congress failed to pass prior to the expiration of the most recent stopgap funding law would not have okayed the pay increase, Roll Call noted that the Senate’s fiscal 2019 Financial Services spending bill would give a 1.9 percent increase to federal workers beginning January 1.
House Republicans said before the midterm elections that they would go along with the pay increase, but that bill was left hanging along with six other unfinished fiscal 2019 appropriations measures.
“We expect the new Congress to pass legislation that provides a 1.9 percent pay adjustment for 2019 as soon as the government reopens,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal workers union.