Trump moves to restrict outsourcing of federal work

By on 12/08/2020
Trump has warned federal boards against “betraying” American workers. (Credit: Creative Commons license).

President Donald Trump has taken further steps to prevent US government departments and agencies using foreign workers following a row with the nation’s largest utility.

Heads of government departments have been ordered to submit reports detailing whether contracts awarded by their organisations involve the use of labour from outside the US.

Last week, Trump signed an executive order stating that it was government policy to create job opportunities for US workers, particularly in regions where the federal government is the largest employer. This is especially important during the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the order stated.

The White House has tasked the head of each executive department and agency to review contracts and subcontracts awarded in 2018 and 2019 to assess whether any used temporary foreign labour for contracts performed in the US.

If foreign labour was used, department and agency chiefs must assess whether opportunities for US workers were affected and if there were any potential impacts on national security.

They must also outline whether contractors performed services in other countries that were previously undertaken in the US and if such offshoring affected opportunities for US workers.

Hiring practices should be scrutinised to ensure they meet legal requirements that all employees are US citizens, lawful permanent residents seeking citizenship or refugee and asylum seekers who intend to seek citizenship, the order stated.

Department heads have three months to complete the assessments and submit a report to the director of the Office of Management and Budget. The reports should propose action to mitigate any negative impacts and the timeframes for doing so. They can also propose any presidential action that could support this work.

The executive order follows other moves by the White House to protect US jobs. In June, Trump signed a separate executive order freezing new visas for foreign workers until the end of the year. Healthcare workers and researchers combating Covid-19, university professors and people working in agriculture or seafood were exempt.

The action has been prompted by the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) June announcement that it was to outsource 20 percent of its technology jobs to foreign countries. The move could result in more than 200 highly-skilled US tech workers in Tennessee losing their jobs, the White House said.

Trump fired two of the TVA’s board members and called for the board to remove the agency’s chief executive, Jeff Lyash. “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board. If you betray American workers, then you will hear two simple words: ‘You’re fired’”, Trump said, according to a report by Reuters.

The TVA has since rescinded its decision. In a statement, Lyash said: “We were wrong in not fully understanding the impact on our employees, especially during the pandemic. We are taking immediate actions to address this situation.”

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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