26 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Trump order threatens PS careers

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United States President, Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order that creates a new class of ‘policy-making’ Public Servants that could strip thousands of Government employees of job protections.

The order creates a new Schedule F within those who work for the Federal Government, composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions”.

It instructs Agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them into this new classification.

Federal regulations stating that Government employees retain that status even if their position is moved will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

This means the positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most Federal workers currently enjoy.

The Executive Order also instructs the Federal Labour Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by unions.

The order also sets a swift timetable for implementation: Agencies have 90 days to conduct a preliminary review of their workforces to determine who should be moved into the new employee classification — a deadline that coincides with 19 January, the day before the next Presidential Inauguration.

The White House argued that the Executive Order was a necessary reform to ensure Federal officials can more efficiently remove poor performers.

It noted that the 2016 Merit Principles Survey revealed that less than a quarter of Federal employees believed their Agency addressed poor performers effectively.

However, Federal employee groups and Government observers described the Executive Order as an attempt to politicise the Public Service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the Federal Government.

Professor at the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, Donald Kettl (pictured) said the Executive Order was aimed at undoing what Public Service laws over decades had tried to accomplish

“That is to create a career Civil Service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in Government,” Professor Kettl said.

“The argument here is that anyone involved in policy-making can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they are subject to political review and dismissal for any reason,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers, unions, Federal employee associations and others expressed dismay and alarm over the move with an almost universal expression of hope that Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden would move to cancel the Order should he win the US election.

Washington, 25 October 2020

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