The latest executive order news coming out of the White House addresses some long overdue questions about government workers and their unions. Efforts to not only shrink the size of government but to remove ineffective or misbehaving workers have largely been stymied by union agreements which were crafted over decades with nobody at the bargaining table looking out for the taxpayer. Other goodies for the labor groups allowed most of their union work to be done on government time and using government resources. These executive orders will be changing some of those processes. (Government Executive)

President Trump issued a series of executive orders Friday that could gut federal employee unions’ ability to negotiate with agency leaders and represent workers, as well as reduce the time it takes for an agency to fire people for poor performance or misconduct.

Billed as the first step toward broad civil service reform, senior administration officials announced in a call with reporters on Friday afternoon three executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire poor performers and ordering harsher treatment of union representatives.

“Today, the president is fulfilling his promise to promote a more efficient government by reforming civil service rules,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council. “Every year, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey shows that less than one third of federal employees believe poor performers are adequately addressed by their agency. These executive orders make it easier to remove poor performing employees, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used.”

Some of the biggest (and best) changes address policies which we’ve been carping about here for years. The first one shortens the period of Performance Improvement Plans (where the misbehaving or underperforming worker is given time to straighten up and fly right) to 30 days across all agencies. Under the old system, these PIPs could last up to half a year.

The next change really hits the motherload, though. Trump is clamping down on so-called “official time” where employees who are union officials can spend unlimited time doing union work while they are on the clock, sometimes doing zero work for the public. They also get to use offices and other government equipment for union work at no cost. Trump is clamping down on that, ordering that no union officials spend more than 25% of their work hours on union business and ordering a new agreement where the unions can use their own facilities or pay rent for using government offices. These changes are long, long overdue.

Already being called “a devastating blow” by some union supporters, opponents may be surprised to find that there probably isn’t much sympathy among the public for the status quo in government human resources management. This is particularly true for anyone who has spent any amount of time working in the private sector. In a normal job out in the real world, if you repeatedly screw up massively or are credibly accused of any serious malfeasance, odds are that you will be packing up your desk and heading for the parking lot before the end of the day. But as the Washington Times reported this week, one study after another shows that federal government workers are treated far differently than the rest of us. (Emphasis added)

Office of Personnel Management data shows federal employees are 44 times less likely to be fired than a private sector worker once they’ve completed a probationary period.

A recent Government Accountability Office report showed that it takes between six months and a year to remove a federal employee for poor performance, followed by an eight-month appeals process.

One official indicated some lower numbers for the average amount of time it takes to remove someone for poor performance or misbehavior, averaging close to 120 days. But that’s still months longer than what happens in the real world. And we’ve frequently seen discharged employees remaining on the payroll while an appeals process drags on for months or even years. What precisely makes these workers so much more “special” than everyone else? This should not be some sort of forbidden question when the taxpayers are the ones paying those wages.

The one thing missing from these executive orders was a fresh look at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Originally designed as a safeguard against political retribution against career workers when different parties take control, the MSPB has morphed into a union tool to prevent most workers from ever being fired. The MSPB has overturned some truly jaw-dropping dismissals, including people found dealing drugs out of their office desk or spending the workday watching porn on their government computer instead of working. Since it was created through congressional action Trump couldn’t just do away with it entirely, but some measure of sanity should be possible to impose. Perhaps Trump will get around to the MSPB in the next round of EOs.