President Trump delivers remarks at Sheffer Corp. in Blue Ash, Ohio, on Feb. 5. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal labor organizations are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s plan to develop a pay-for-performance system for federal employees.

It would be a “nail in the coffin of the apolitical, professional civil service,” said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union.

Reacting to an Associated Press report that a pay-for-performance proposal will be included in the budget plan President Trump will release Monday, Cox asked if anyone wants “a system that allows financial rewards — funded by taxpayers — to be provided exclusively to those deemed loyal to the administration?

“Does anybody want a pay system that denies pay adjustments to people considered disloyal to the administration? Pity the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] scientist whose work demonstrates the existence of climate change.”

Moving to pay-for-performance, instead of the current system in which tenure has considerable influence on pay increases, would be a substantial change in the government’s salary structure, but it would not be the first time it has been tried. The National Security Personnel System was used at the Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush. That system came under harsh criticism for unfairness from labor organizations and Democrats, and it was abolished by Congress.

“Congress repealed authority for that system after just three years because it resulted in tremendous pay discrimination against women and racial minorities,” Cox said. “These subjective pay systems open the door to corruption, favoritism and discrimination.”

Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, agreed with Cox and said pay-for-performance is a way to cut federal pay. The president’s proposal reportedly would save $10 billion over 10 years and would apply to about 1.5 million federal workers out of about 2 million. It is not clear who would not be included in the president’s plan.

“It is very simple: Performance pay does not work in the federal government because money is always drying up, and performance pay is the first thing to go,” Erwin said. “Employees correctly view the potential of performance bonuses as empty promises.

“In reality, performance-based pay in the federal government is a cost-containment tool, nothing more,” he added. “Once federal workers’ pay becomes ambiguous, it become easier to whittle away.”

The Office of Management and Budget did not respond to requests for comment on the president’s plan.

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