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Washington Secrets

Jobs for life: Federal government very rarely fires workers

One of the biggest changes that took place when President Joe Biden came into office was his demand that unions get preferential treatment for government jobs, ending former President Donald Trump’s goal of making it easy to fire poor-performing federal workers.

Now, we’re learning how hard it is to fire a bureaucrat. A new report shared with Secrets found that in Trump’s last year, just 4,000 of 1.6 million federal workers lost their job, or one-quarter of 1%, a fraction of what happens in the private sector.

What’s more, federal worker unions help pick arbitrators used to decide appeals of those who are fired, and more than half get their job back, most with back pay, said the study from America First Policy Institute.

And while polls of federal workers show they wish it was easier to dump poor performers, the difficulty in firing employees is the main reason agency heads simply look the other way.

“The combination of lengthy delays, followed by high reversal rates and back pay obligations, makes attempting to dismiss unionized employees very risky for agencies,” read the report from the group headed by former top Trump officials.