WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Federal employees are ready and able to meet the challenges of a 21st century government, so long as agencies aren't hamstrung by government policies that make it difficult to recruit and retain talented workers, the head of the largest government employee union told a Senate committee today.
"If we are serious about ensuring that the federal government can address the problems facing society, then simply put, our elected officials must stop attacking the federal workforce," American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said in remarks prepared for delivery before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee during a hearing today.
Federal employees have incurred $159 billion in cuts to their compensation since 2011, and Congress passed a resolution last month that, if enacted, would slash an employee's take-home pay additionally by up to 12%.
"The more often the system penalizes federal workers and tries to solve political and economic problems on their backs, the less likely the government will recruit and retain the qualified and skilled workforce it needs," Cox said in his written testimony.
"What would make a medical researcher working on a cure for cancer at the Muskogee VA Hospital or an electrician who repairs complex weapons at Tinker Air Force Base choose public service if their jobs were subject to salary cuts, furloughs, and government shutdowns year in and year out?"
Budget policies also put productivity and efficiency at odds within the federal government, Cox said. The Border Patrol rewards managers for cutting costs, even when it means reductions in border security. The Agriculture Department saves $90 million over three years by removing front-line poultry inspectors and speeding up the inspections process, threatening food safety.
Cost concerns also have led to contracting out of government work, even though it's been proven time and time again that federal workers are more cost effective than contracting out for services, Cox said.
"The government that will meet the challenges of the 21st century must grapple with the tension between quality and cost efficiency and on both of those counts, the federal workforce is the right choice," he said.
Modernizing government also should not mean gutting the existing pay and personnel systems, Cox added. Those systems were designed to ensure employees are treated fairly and equally and are protected from being fired for partisan political reasons.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
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SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees