Law Enforcment Officers Equity Act
The Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act (H.R. 327) would modify the definition of the term “law enforcement officer” (LEO) within the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Under this new definition, LEO status would be extended to all federal employees who carry firearms and are involved in the investigation or apprehension of either suspected or convicted criminals.
In line with previous legislation, upon receiving LEO status, these federal officers would witness substantive improvements in their pay and retirement benefits. These enhanced benefits include major increases in retirement annuities and the option of retiring with full health and life insurance after reaching the age of 50 and working a minimum of twenty years with the federal government.
Overall, the legislation would reclassify an estimated 30,000 federal employees as law enforcement officers. Those impacted by the Act would include workers from nearly two dozen agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans' Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Mint, and the Internal Revenue Service.
Federal law enforcement officers are regularly involved in hazardous work with tremendous risk. As such, the proposed legislation properly rewards those workers who place their lives in harm’s way to defend the United States. Additionally, experts suggest that the implementation of the Act would save taxpayers millions of dollars each year by reducing worker turnover, improving workforce retention, and ultimately decreasing recruitment and development costs.
The Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act makes sound economic sense and rightfully honors those federal officers who bravely protect our country every day. NFFE-IAM strongly supports H.R. 327.
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Federal Employee Pension Security
The inappropriately named Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act (S. 644) would eliminate federal pensions for all new government hires starting in 2013. New employees would no longer receive the pension portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Instead, federal workers would receive only the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) portion of FERS in addition to their Social Security.
While the bill’s sponsors claim that federal retirement benefits are excessive, and must be brought in line with those in the private sector, the facts tell a much different story. The most comprehensive study comparing retirement benefits under the FERS and retirement benefits provided to employees in medium and large firms in the U.S. was prepared by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Policy and published in 2004. This study found unequivocally that the FERS basic pension – the defined benefit that is the target of those who support cuts – replaces about 36 percent of pre-retirement earnings for federal workers, while private sector basic pension benefits replace 47.3 percent of a retiree’s final salary. Even when the basic pension is added to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and Social Security, FERS comes up short compared to private sector plans, replacing a smaller percentage of pre-retirement salary as compared to private plans with the same components. When examined closely, it becomes clear that this bill has little to do with parity, and much more to do with unfairly targeting federal employees.
Claims that federal pension benefits are inflated are at best, wrong, and at worst, outright lies. In fact, federal workers’ pensions represent only a modest portion of the larger federal retirement picture. For example, a career federal employee who retires with a final salary of $50,000 per year and 30 years of service will receive a pension of merely $15,000 per year – hardly an exorbitant figure by any measure.
The reason that federal pension benefits are so modest is because they were effectively cut in half when the government moved from the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to FERS. Legislation was passed in 1986 and went into effect January 1, 1987. From then onward, new employees received the smaller pension benefit, in addition to the 401(k) style TSP account and Social Security. Often referred to as the “three-legged stool” of federal retirement, these three small pieces coalesce to create the modest retirement plan currently available to government employees.
The result of S.644 would be to destroy federal retirement security and severely hamstring the government’s efforts to recruit the next generation of federal workers. With a retirement wave expected to hit the workforce in the coming years, slashing retirement benefits will make it much more difficult to recruit doctors, nurses, intelligence analysts, scientists, and other highly-sought-after workers into the federal service. NFFE-IAM strongly opposes S.644.
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Two-Week Furloughs for Federal Workers
H.R. 270 is a bill
designed to force federal agencies to furlough
federal workers for two weeks during FY
This bill would accomplish this by
mandating that executive branch agencies issue
regulations stating whether particular federal
employees will be furloughed without pay for
two weeks in FY 2012. The assertion that this bill
would save large sums is simply not true. The
bill’s mandate for new regulations would simply
waste time and resources of federal agencies,
requiring them to spend time writing rules for
the workforce instead of providing services to
the American people.
H.R. 270, would require the President of the United States, by regulation, to subject federal employees in fiscal year 2012 to two-week unpaid furloughs from their jobs unless the regulation exempts them for reasons of national security, reasons relating to the public health or safety (including effective law enforcement), or such other reasons as the President considers necessary or appropriate. NFFE-IAM strongly opposes the purpose of this bill.
The bill’s primary sponsor asserted in 2010 that the bill would save $5.5 billion; but, given the bill’s express provision for unlimited exemptions, there is no guarantee that it will save any money at all that otherwise would be spent to compensate federal employee for their service to the American people. Rather, the bill’s only guarantee is that federal employees would be required to divert their efforts from providing services to the American people to writing regulations about whether, when, and how the people will be further deprived of these services.
Further, it is likely that any savings that could theoretically be achieved by furloughing federal workers would be offset by increased costs in other areas. Furloughs would likely create backlogs in many vital services that federal employees provide for the American people. Veterans’ prescriptions would go unfilled. Passport lines would get longer and longer. In many cases, it would require overtime of current federal employees or contractor assistance to address the backlogs created, both of which tend to be more expensive than federal employees performing the work as they do normally. In the end, the increased costs associated with furloughs would largely or fully offset proposed savings. Since this bill does not reduce the work required to be performed, the only alternative to a cost shift is that critical work simply not get done.
Contrary to inaccurate news media assertions that federal employees are vastly overpaid, government data show that skilled federal employees are paid 24 percent less than their private sector counterparts. In fact, President George W. Bush certified that federal workers are paid 23% less than private sector workers in 2008. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry recently noted that skilled employees comprise the majority of federal workers. Only the smaller percent of federal employees who are unskilled receive slightly higher pay than their unskilled private sector counterparts, who include minimum wage workers.
The President recently stated that he will require federal agencies to limit their expenditures to ensure efficient provision of government services at the lowest possible cost and that furloughs of employees appropriately tailored in scope and duration are among the tools that agencies may use. Efficient day-to-day management of the federal workforce does not require new written regulations determining, months in advance, without regard to current circumstances, which if any particular employees will be furloughed for an arbitrarily determined two-week period. A law requiring such regulations would decrease, not increase, the efficient provision of government services to the American people. NFFE-IAM strongly opposes H.R. 270.
Federal Employees and Uniformed Services Retirement Equity Act
The Federal Employees and Uniformed Services Retirement Equity Act is bipartisan legislation that would allow federal employees and members of the uniformed services to invest the value of their unused annual leave into their retirement accounts. An employee or member could contribute to the Thrift Savings Fund, a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan, any amount as long as it does not push them above the upper limit on annual retirement contributions of $16,500 for employees younger than 50 and $22,000 for those 50 or older. This measure would simply bring the Thrift Savings Fund in line with changes that have already been made to rules governing private 401(k) programs. This change will allow federal employees and members of the uniformed services to significantly boost their retirement savings. NFFE-IAM strongly supports this legislation.
(This bill has yet to be reintroduced in the 112th Congress. Bill numbers and printable position papers will be provided upon introduction).
The Federal Employees and Uniformed Services Retirement Equity Act will amend title 5, United States Code, to provide that an employee of the federal government or member of the uniformed services may contribute to the Thrift Savings Fund any payment that the employee or member receives for accumulated and accrued annual or vacation leave. This legislation would not allow employees or members to make contributions to the Thrift Savings Fund with unused sick leave.
The Thrift Savings Fund is a defined contribution plan for the United States civil service employees and retirees as well as for members of the uniformed services. It is designed to closely resemble private sector 401(k) plans. With the changes proposed in this bill, plan participants would be able to contribute the value of their unused annual leave up to the Internal Revenue Code limitation, which is currently $16,500 for employees younger than 50 and $22,000 for those 50 or older.
With the changes proposed, federal employees and military service members making contributions to the Thrift Savings Fund using the value of unused annual leave would not be entitled to any matching contributions made by federal agencies. Typically, federal employees enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) who contribute their own money are matched dollar for dollar for the first three percent contributed per pay period. They are then matched 50 cents on the dollar for the next two percent of pay contributed. Contributions made with the value of unused annual leave would not be matched in this way.
This legislation does nothing more than bring the Thrift Savings Fund in line private sector 401(k) programs. On September 5, 2009 the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued rulings allowing workers enrolled in private 401(k) programs the ability to convert unused leave into 401(k) savings. This bill would simply make a corresponding change to the Thrift Savings Fund.
This bipartisan legislation would offer a much needed boon to federal employees’ and military service members’ retirement accounts by giving them the ability to convert unused annual leave into retirement savings. NFFE-IAM strongly supports this legislation.
The Federal Workforce Reduction Act
The Federal Workforce Reduction Act (H.R. 657) is a dangerous scheme to reduce the size of the federal workforce by allowing federal agencies to hire just one employee for every two who leave the federal service or retire. This would cause federal agencies, many of which are already severely understaffed, a personnel crisis that will greatly reduce the federal government’s effectiveness and greatly reduce services the American people rely on. Furthermore, this bill would not save taxpayers money because it does not reduce in any way the services expected of federal agencies. This bill would simply cause a cost shift from the federal workforce to contractors, which have proven to be more costly than the federal workforce and less accountable. Agencies will simply be forced to hire contractors to pick up the slack of federal workforce cuts. NFFE-IAM strongly opposes this legislation.
The Federal Workforce Reduction Act (H.R. 657) aims to reduce the size of the federal workforce by allowing federal agencies to hire just one employee for every two who leave the federal service or retire. Federal agencies would share a hiring pool so that some agencies could maintain staffing levels or even grow staffing while others would receive steep staffing cuts. The net impact for all agencies in the pool would be one employee hired for every two that leave the federal service or retire.
This would cause serious problems at federal agencies because most agencies are already significantly understaffed due to decades of shrinking budgets. Most federal agencies cannot adequately sustain any significant staff cuts, much less broad cuts that would replace one employee for every two that leave the federal service.
Passage of this bill would result in a logistical nightmare for federal agencies that would ultimately impact the American public they serve. Reducing the federal workforce through an arbitrary 1-for-2 replacement policy will greatly reduce the services agencies provide to the American people. Passports would take months to get. National parks and forests enjoyed by millions would be forced to close. Federal response to forest fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters would be significantly slower and less effective. Veterans would have to wait longer for the care they depend on. These are just a few examples of the countless number of ways an arbitrary staff reduction in the federal government would impact Americans.
Not only will this bill shortchange the American people on the vital services they receive from experienced federal workers every day, it will likely just result in a cost-shift away from federal workers to contractors who have proven to be more expensive and operate with less transparency and oversight. Forced contracting out due to staff shortages is a non-strategic approach that will surely coast taxpayers more than it will save.
This bill would also have a negative impact on the overall economy. Forcing federal employees onto the unemployment rolls will further strain state and federal unemployment programs, costing the taxpayers billions on top of the loss in key federal services.
Overall, this proposal would diminish services, raise costs, and force the American taxpayer to foot the bill. NFFE-IAM strongly opposes this legislation.
Click Here for Printable Position Paper
Official Time For Union Representation
The inappropriately titled “Federal Employee Accountability Act” (H.R. 122) is a misguided bill that would eliminate federal employees’ statutory rights to official time for collective bargaining and to Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) determination of the official time to be allowed for work in FLRA proceedings. This would unnecessarily lead to enormous waste of time and resources. The NFFE-IAM strongly opposes H.R. 122.
Under federal law, federal employee unions are required to provide representation for all employees in their bargaining units, even those who don't pay dues. Federal employee unions are forbidden from collecting any payments or fees from non‑dues paying members for the services to which they are legally entitled. In exchange for the legal responsibility of providing services to those who pay as well as those who refuse to pay, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 incorporated the concept of “official time.” (5 U.S.C. § 7131.) Federal employees who serve as union representatives are permitted to use official time to perform representational activities during normal duty hours for all employees, regardless of membership status.
The official time law provides three separate rights: first, a right to use official time for collective bargaining; second, a right to have the FLRA determine the amount of official time that will be allowed for FLRA proceedings; and, third, a right to negotiate agreements providing official time for both collective bargaining and other representational duties—such as investigating and pursuing employee grievances, participating in labor-management forums under Executive Order 13522, and representing federal employees in discrimination cases. Under the third provision, official time is limited to the amount that the labor organization and employing agency agree is reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest. If agreement is not reached, the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) resolves the matter. Contrary to an often-heard misconception, the law prohibits, and always has prohibited, use of official time for internal union business.
H.R. 122 would eliminate the first two rights described above. As a result, all official time for bargaining and other representational duties would have to be established through labor-management negotiations, with disagreements resolved by the FSIP. This would be inefficient and wasteful.
First, the FLRA, not the
FSIP, is in a better position to determine
efficiently and accurately the amount of
official time that should be allowed for the
FLRA’s own proceedings. Second,
because collective bargaining is a core legal
obligation, the FSIP almost certainly would
allow official time needed for it, if agreement
were not reached. In such a case, the FSIP
would have two choices. It
could try to predict the time that the parties
might need for bargaining, which would require
wasteful return to the FSIP if the prediction
were too low. Or, the FSIP could rule that,
for whatever amount of time the parties
actually engage in collective bargaining,
official time will be allowed in that
amount—which would achieve what the statute
says now, but only after waste of time. Third,
even if the FSIP were to allow less official
time than labor and management actually need to
complete collective bargaining, this would mean
that bargaining would have to be finished
during the union representatives’ non-duty
time—evenings and weekends. This
would be inefficient—and expensive, to the
extent managements’ representatives would be
entitled to overtime pay for these evening and
weekend bargaining sessions. For all
these reasons, NFFE-IAM strongly opposes H.R.