President Donald Trump on Friday signed a trio of executive orders to overhaul the federal bureaucracy by making it easier to fire federal workers for poor performance and misconduct, requiring that departments and agencies negotiate better union contracts and limiting the amount of time certain federal workers can spend on union business.
Labor unions immediately criticized the moves.
"These executive orders will make it easier for agencies to remove poor performing employees and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used," Andrew Bremberg, Trump's chief domestic policy adviser, told reporters at a briefing. Bremberg said the orders fulfill Trump's promise to "promote more efficient government by reforming our civil service rules."
Bremberg said surveys of federal employees show the vast majority do not believe their poor-performing colleagues are adequately handled by their agencies.
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The executive orders signed by Trump call for:
—Negotiating smarter contracts with federal employee unions. Agencies are also encouraged to wrap up labor negotiations in less than a year to limit the cost of "drawn-out" bargaining.
—Renegotiating contracts to limit to 25 percent the amount of time federal employees who are authorized to work on behalf of a labor union can spend on union business during work hours. The order cuts back on lobbying or pursuing grievances against an agency on taxpayer-funded union time. Agencies will also be able to collect rent from employees who use federal office space for union business. The administration says these and other changes will save taxpayers at least $100 million annually.
—Streamlining the length of time it takes to terminate a federal worker for poor performance or misconduct. Administration officials said the process currently takes between six months and a year, and can last longer if the dismissal is appealed.
The American Federation of Government Employees immediately criticized the moves as an attempt by Trump to strip federal employees of their right to representation in the workplace. The union said it represents 700,000 workers in the federal government and the District of Columbia.
"This is more than union busting. It's democracy busting," said J. David Cox Sr., the union's national president. "These executive orders are a direct assault on the legal rights and protections that Congress has specifically guaranteed to the 2 million public-sector employees across the country who work for the federal government."
Cox said workers will be deprived of their rights to address a host of workplace issues, ranging from sexual harassment to retaliation against whistleblowers to improving on-the-job health and safety.
He said union representatives have used official time in ways that benefit taxpayers, including exposing management's attempt to cover up an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed and sickened veterans in Pittsburgh and speeding up the processing of benefits to veterans and their survivors.