Trump blocks federal workers' pay hike while they're out of a job

Federal workers just can’t catch a break.

In the middle of a partial shutdown of the federal government, President Donald Trump ordered a pay freeze for federal workers late Friday, blocking an automatic pay increase from going into effect Jan. 1.

Trump said months ago that he was seeking the freeze. It was ultimately made possible by Congress, which never passed a pay hike before the end of the year. The GOP-controlled Senate had signed off on a bipartisan 1.9 percent increase, but the GOP-controlled House left it unaddressed.

If Trump had done nothing, the federal pay formula would have enacted an automatic 2.1 percent pay increase. But the inaction by Congress gave him an opening to make the increase zero through executive order.

It’s likely that the House will agree to a pay raise after Democrats take over as the majority on Jan. 3. Federal employee unions will press for any raise to be retroactive to the first of the year if an increase gets passed.

Groups representing federal employees said Trump’s freeze comes as added insult to the shutdown. Roughly one-fourth of the federal government is not funded at the moment, as the president demands $5 billion in federal funds for a wall along the southern border that he used to say Mexico was going to pay for.

Roughly 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, and another 380,000 have been furloughed and are temporarily out of a job. Although lawmakers have typically approved backpay retroactively after previous shutdowns, there is no guarantee a divided Congress would do so this time.

NARFE, a group representing current and retired federal workers, said the implementation of the pay freeze is another sign of Trump’s “disdain” for government employees.

“Refusing to provide a nominal raise for our nation’s hardworking federal employees amid a partial government shutdown shows clear contempt for those who carry out public service,” Ken Thomas, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers, said Trump was “pouring salt into the wound” while workers go without paychecks.

As HuffPost reported Thursday, the partial shutdown is just the latest chapter in Trump’s long-running battle with civil servants who do the government’s work. In addition to the pay freeze, his administration has also tried to peel back collective bargaining rights and increase workers’ pension contributions.

RELATED: Congress tries to avert partial shutdown

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Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown
The entrance to the office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is decorated for the holidays as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol is seen under early morning skies in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. The Senate approved legislation to temporarily fund the government late last night, a key step toward averting a federal shutdown after President Donald Trump backed off his demand for money for a border wall with Mexico. The House is expected to vote before Friday's deadline, when funding for a portion of the government expires. Without resolution, more than 800,000 federal workers would face furloughs or be forced to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leave after talking to reporters as a revised spending bill is introduced in the House that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., walks to the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker Paul Ryan walks to the chamber as a revised spending bill is introduced that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker-designate for the new Congress, arrive to talk to reporters as a revised spending bill is introduced in the House that includes $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as Congress tries to avert a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, heads into a House Republican strategy meeting as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Reporters at the Capitol wait for Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to return from the White House as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the chamber as President Donald Trump and Congress bicker over terms for funding the government and his demand for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing the government to the brink of a partial shutdown, in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., top, is met by reporters at the Capitol after he and Speaker Paul Ryan returned from the White House as Congress tries to pass legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, speaks during a television interview at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. President Donald Trump insisted on funding a wall or other barrier along the southern U.S. border as tensions over a possible partial government shutdown intensified in the wake of the presidents refusal to sign a stopgap spending bill. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Many workers and their representatives bristle at middle-class government employees being lumped in with the “swamp” that Trump said needs draining.

“It’s almost as if we have an administration that is at war with its own workforce,” one union official told HuffPost earlier this week. “It’s been an ongoing assault.”

Trump has warned that the shutdown could drag on ”for a very long time″ if he doesn’t get the wall money he wants. Democrats have said they will produce a bill to reopen the government as soon as they take over the House next week, but so far they have shown few signs of acquiescing to the president’s demands.

Members of the military are not subject to the pay freeze. They will be receiving a 2.6 percent pay increase next year, even though Trump falsely told them to their faces that they would be getting 10 percent.

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