On behalf of the thousands of government employees residing on Guam, GFT implores Governor Calvo to veto Bill 323-34. It is bad for business, and it is bad for Government of Guam workers. The ramifications of the miscellaneous provisions will chase people away from government employment because it places a freeze in any upward pay adjustment, prioritizes temporary employees, creates unilateral transfer of employees, places restrictions on hiring unclassified employees, and provides penalties for unsuccessful whistleblowing cases meant to keep the government accountable. In essence, this budget bill is an anti-worker bill that further erodes the rights of the employees.
Freeze in Pay
The biggest gripe of this bill is the freezing of salary increments, promotions, reclassifications, merit bonuses, and any other upward pay adjustments for all of FY2019. Even more, this bill does not allow for any retroactive payments of benefits. Teachers spend thousands of dollars to advance their degree in the field of education in the hopes of receiving reclassification to pay for their degree. This does not bode well for the employees who took on additional debt in the form of student loans, only to be told that they will not receive any increase whatsoever.
Most government employees earn below their respective pay grade when compared to the national average. This is why a few years ago, law enforcement personnel were given a whopping 40% pay adjustment. This is why starting teacher wages moved from about $26k a year to $34k a year. The nefarious intent to balance the budget on the backs of the lowest paid employees in the nation is beyond dubious. With rising taxes and inflation, the wages of the lowest in the nation do keep up without the increments and reclassifications.
The temporary employment of corrections officers, police officers, firefighters, customs and quarantine officers, Department of Revenue and Taxation employees, social workers, and attorneys is a bad idea, which leads to more long-term problems than it addresses. Primarily, the temporary hiring of employees removes all Civil Service protections given to employees. The employees become at-will employees, losing all job security. This prevents, at least impedes, the hiring of full-time employees to fulfill the long-term needs of those agencies. Over a period, the temporary employees may decide to quit in mass over a work issue, causing more disruptions than solutions. Hiring a temporary worker is kicking the can of problems down further instead of resolving the issue of hiring pertinent employees as a long-term solution.
Unilateral Transfer of Employees
The unilateral transfer of employees does not take into consideration any seniority or work location preference of the employee. Preferably, transfers occur on a voluntary basis as opposed to an involuntary basis. An employee who wants to move will be happier and more productive in their new location than someone who was forced to transfer. In addition, some individuals may have children attending a school near their work location. A change in work location may have unintended consequences by having the household adjust to the new predicament. Again, I ask that you consider the families affected through unilateral involuntary transfers.
Restrictions on Hiring of Unclassified Employees
Although the restrictions, in theory, would save some government finances, the list of exemptions cover eighteen areas. What is the cost analysis for this portion of the bill? What is the total amount of money saved? Perhaps the Guam Legislature should list specific restrictions for hiring unclassified employees as opposed to those agencies that are exempt. I feel this may be a crafty attempt to remove deputy directors and other levels of management.
False Claims and Whistleblowing
Levying fines up to three times the cost to litigate a failed whistleblowing attempt may cause an unforeseen stoppage or slowdown in whistleblowers coming forward to present their findings. Nearly 80% of whistleblowers who were employees reported retaliation for their actions, regardless of outcome (Modesitt, 2013). Furthermore, the success rates of whistleblowing are at a mere 9% (Modesitt, 2013). This means that nearly 91% of whistleblowers who come forward may have to pay nearly 3 times the cost of the litigated case. The incentives to report corruption will not outweigh the consequences. Whistleblowers play a critical role in keeping the government accountable in its operations. This language of having the government play the primary role in suing the whistleblower will cause a catastrophic climb in corruption because whistleblower will have more to fear than the thieves will.
*See Nancy M. Modesitt, Why Whistleblowers Lose: An Empirical and Qualitative Analysis of State Court Cases (2013)