Will 2012 be any better for federal workforce?

Thursday - 12/22/2011, 11:40am EST

Colleen Kelley, president, NTEU

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By Michael O'Connell
@moconnellWFED
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

With pay freezes, hiring reforms and major budget cuts, 2011 was a roller coaster year for feds.

According to Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, two major stories of the year were both negative ones — the potential shutdowns and, what she calls, the non-stop attacks on federal employees who are working under a two-year pay freeze.

"Those two stories occupied far too much of the time in 2011," Kelley told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris on Thursday.

Colleen Kelley, president, NTEU

She said, federal workers see the two-year pay freeze as their way of helping the country make it through tough fiscal times.

"That is contributing over $60 billion over 10 years," said Kelley. "Because of that contribution, they think that's enough. While it will extend through 2012, these ongoing efforts and conversations — and new ones seem to come up every week — trying to extend the pay freeze, whether it's to three years or to five years, is something that is not heard well by federal employees. They think this is enough."

What Kelley finds heartening about federal employees as they serve the two-year pay freeze and encounter the non-stop waves of attacks against them is that they continue to do their jobs with commitment and dedication.

"They're doing what the country needs them to do and are serving the American people," she said. "I think they should be commended for that every day."

One for the good column

Not all the news in 2011 was bad for federal employees. The Office of Management and Budget clarified in writing what work could be done by contract workers and what work was inherently governmental. Kelley considers this a positive step.

"That was a long work-in-progress," she said. "It was work that needed to be done to reverse the actions of the past administration. It is work that this administration has stepped up to."

For 2012, Kelley said she hopes that Congress recognizes across-the-board the contributions of the federal workforce and that the attacks on employees and agency budgets come to an end. However, she considers that unlikely.

"In an election year, unfortunately, we can expect more of the same from certain members of Congress who have a lot of misguided proposals aimed at the federal workforce and at agency budgets that have already been cut to the point that many are worried about being able to do their jobs," she said.

On a more positive note, Kelley predicted that 2012 will bring in a more vocal and invigorated federal workforce, possibly due to the negativity that's currently being leveled at them.

"With so much at stake in the upcoming election year, we expect federal employees, their families and their supporters to be more vocal and more active than ever," she said.

Traveling around the country, Kelley said she reminds NTEU members that elected officials are the ones who are making the important decisions about the federal workforce. She said she encourages them to register to vote and exercise their right to vote come the 2012 election.

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