As of March 1, the Merit Systems Protection Board no longer has any members. The three-member board has been without a two-member quorum since January 2017, when one of two remaining board members' term expired. The other remaining member's term expired March 1 after having been extended for a year.
In late August, President Trump announced his plan to freeze the pay of federal civilian employees. Now, in the midst of the partial government shutdown, he has finalized that plan. On Dec. 28, he issued an executive order formalizing the 2019 pay freeze. Federal workers had been slated to receive a nominal 1.9 percent increase in 2019.
In July 2017, the Office of Special Counsel called on all federal agencies to disallow unpaid union official leave when its purpose was for an employee to engage in "partisan political activity." It claimed that allowing leave for that purpose violates the Hatch Act, which limits federal employees' participation in political campaign activities.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the Office of Special Counsel's backlog of whistleblower and prohibited personnel practices cases almost doubled between 2011 and 2016, even though the OSC has been actively working to reduce it. The GAO notes that the OSC increased the number of employees reviewing the cases and established a unit focusing on hybrid cases involving both a whistleblower disclosure and alleged retaliation. Nevertheless, the approximately 66-percent increase in cases filed since 2011 was enough to overcome those efforts and cause the backlog to increase.
President Trump's 2019 budget proposal included a pay freeze for federal workers during the federal fiscal year and slow the pace of step increases. It also documented the administration's intention to rely on "pay for performance" to determine federal workers' salaries rather than the current tenure-based step increase system. At a recent House Appropriations Committee hearing, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the proposed changes.
"Currently, executive branch agencies are unable to investigate and process personnel security clearances in a timely manner," says the Government Accountability Office, which has added the federal security clearance process to its High Risk List. The list was created by the nonpartisan watchdog agency in 1990 in an effort to emphasize areas in serious need of reform or improvement to avoid waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.
If you try to look up the word "distrumption" in the dictionary, you won't find it. That's one of the interesting things about language. It can change with the times, and right now, we think it might be argued that distrumption seems to express what is being felt throughout the federal government and its workforce. That is not a statement about the rightness or wrongness of what's happening – merely an observation of current conditions.
When employees are concerned that their working conditions may not be legal, they're often wise to discuss those concerns with a third-party lawyer. Someone who is uninvolved but with knowledge of labor and employment law can be very helpful in determining if the concerns are valid and what steps to take next.
In the labor relations model that has developed in the United States, the perception that dominates is that it is adversarial. Workers are on one side leveraging the strength of their numbers to press demands for better wages and conditions. On the other side is business, looking to maintain its wealth.
A lot can change in a short period of time. As we noted in a post in October, it appeared that employees for federal contractors were headed for some improvements in benefits under orders and rules issued by the Labor Department under President Obama.