Schedule F plans show ‘far higher’ impact on federal workforce than first anticipated, NTEU warns

NTEU warns the Trump administration planned to move a broader scope of federal employees into Schedule F than what was previously envisioned.

Former President Donald Trump’s plans to make it easier to fire large swaths of the federal workforce fizzled soon after he left office.

But a federal employee union says the former administration’s vision for “Schedule F,” which would roll back civil service protections for career federal employees who shape government policy, would impact far more federal employees than previously expected.

The National Treasury Employee Union said Tuesday that Trump-era documents from the Office of Management and Budget show the administration planned on moving a broader scope of federal employees into Schedule F than what was previously envisioned.

NTEU said OMB included office managers, human resource specialists, administrative assistants, cybersecurity specialists and other positions in the bucket of its employees that would move to Schedule F.

The documents show that OMB under the Trump under administration also targeted federal employees in less senior positions, including those in GS-9 and GS-10 roles.

NTEU National President Doreen Greenwald told reporters on Tuesday that the documents demonstrate that “far higher” than 50,000 federal employees, as previously estimated, would be impacted by Schedule F.

“Clearly, Schedule F proponents want to shoehorn as many frontline career staff into Schedule F as possible, regardless of their actual duties,” Greenwald said at NTEU’s annual legislative conference. “And the reason isn’t being hidden. It is their view to make them easier to fire.”

Greenwald said the OMB documents “stretch the definition of confidential or policy positions to the point of absurdity.”

“Under these broad definitions, tens of thousands of frontline federal employees in every single agency potentially would be swept up, many of them GS-12 and below,” Greenwald said.

The Biden administration quickly scrapped Schedule F plans. President Joe Biden signed an executive order first week in office eliminating Trump’s plans for a Schedule F.

But NTEU warns that efforts to resurrect Schedule F under another Trump term could impact far more federal employees than previously envisioned.

Greenwald said the documents serve as a “wake-up call for those who think Schedule F isn’t that big of a deal, or wouldn’t cause much damage.”

“There’s no federal agency that would not be negatively impacted by a Schedule F, and really change the focus of their workforce,” she said.

NTEU obtained hundreds of pages of documents from OMB through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“The Office of Management and Budget has determined these positions are of confidential, policy-determining, policy-making or policy-advocating character and not normally subject to changes as a result of a presidential transition,” former acting OPM Director Michael Rigas wrote in a Jan. 5, 2021 memo to then-OMB Director Russell Vought.

Greenwald, however, said the Schedule F proposal would have also targeted federal employees working in IT, making it even harder for the federal government to attract in-demand talent.

“Federal agencies struggle to fill IT positions overall, because the pay is what it is — there’s limitations. If you add on top of that a Schedule F, where somebody can be fired at will, because of a disagreement, and you are building a system to deliver for the mission of the organization based on that information, I can see that being really detrimental to the progress of having an IT system in place, or having people that are willing to go forward and build that system,” she said.

The Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule last September that would clarify and reinforce merit system principles and other worker protections for career, non-political feds.

Greenwald said OPM’s proposed rule would make it clear that employees retain their due process rights, even if they are moved into another schedule.

“We are doing everything we can to not only stop it but in the event that a Schedule F would come into play, to slow that down, to put rights in place,” Greenwald said. “Obviously, that could be changed, going forward by a new administration. But they would have to go through the same processes that we went through to put these protections in place. And we’re hoping we could use that time to prevent it,” she added.

NTEU General Counsel Julie Wilson said many agencies currently have policies in place that address prohibited personnel policies. Wilson said NTEU is asking agencies to create internal regulations that codify those protections.

“It is unusual to ask for these types of regs in the HR environment. But we thought that this was such a big deal that we wanted to go ahead and get agencies thinking about their authorities to do that,” Wilson said.

NTEU, meanwhile, is urging Congress to avoid a partial government shutdown this Friday.

Greenwald said a partial shutdown on March 1 would account for about 20% of the federal government.

“No business could operate this way, let alone a federal government,” Greenwald said. “And so, it’s important to make sure that Congress does its job by passing the full funding for the rest of the fiscal year, as well as gets to work on the FY 2025 funding.”

Greenwald said the threat of government shutdowns impacts the morale of the federal workforce, but also hampers agencies’ ability to recruit new hires.

“People who are looking for jobs don’t want to have their paycheck threatened. Can you imagine going to work every day and not knowing if you’re going to be paid on time, because Congress can’t figure out their work? So yes, we believe it does threaten the ability for agencies to get good people to come on board,” she said.

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