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How much do feds really work?

In commenting on a recent article on the newly launched deficit “super committee,” FCW readers got into a heated discussion when one suggested that the panel should propose pay freezes and benefits cuts for government employees.

“Let’s hope they freeze fed pay and reduce benefits,” reader Kyle wrote. “Fed jobs are supposed to make less because you can't be fired and for the most part don't have to do too much to be successful (not many feds working 60 [hours]/week on a 40-hour/week salary.) Especially when you consider that the fed [employees] make 2X their private counterparts, according to USA Today. Good job unions, break us all!”

Responding to Kyle’s post, a reader pointed out the already-existing federal pay freeze and said the idea that government employees can’t be fired is a myth “propagated by the ignorant.”

“Kyle, according to the U.S. federal labor laws, unless you are an exempt employee -- straight salary, NO employer can require you to work 60 hours and only pay you for 40,” that reader said. “If you are personally doing so and are not an exempt employee, I suggest you seek legal counsel. If you are exempt and are working such hours, then you should have taken this into consideration when you negotiated your current position. “

Also objecting to Kyle’s comments, a reader said federal employees, especially those in white-collar positions, commonly work 50-60 hour per week while receiving only a 40-hour-week salary.

“Many mid- to senior-level federal employees have been asked to do more with less so they stay connected via BlackBerry or remote access long after they leave the physical office for the day,” that reader wrote. “I used to be proud to be a civil servant -- now, I just feel like federal employees keep getting beat up in the media and by Congress. Congress should look to cut some of their benefits if federal salaries and benefits remain on the chopping block.”

Another reader agreed that members of Congress should get paid the same as federal employees.

“The committee and the rest of Congress should be on the same pay and benefits as the rest of government,” that reader said. “That alone would save some money and then make them look for real money-wasting programs.”

Other readers offered additional approaches to save money and solve the budget crisis.

“How about this idea? Everyone pay $5,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. That is what the deficit is now. Pay it at tax season. Then we'd be done,” Rick from Washington State suggested.

Reader Mike also had a proposal for reducing the budget deficit: share the burden among the people, especially the wealthier ones.

“If there's a national burden, the entire nation needs to contribute to taking care of it, not just feds,” he wrote. “I'd rather see multimillion-dollar employees contribute a little more (e.g. athletes getting paid $10 million per year; CEOs getting bonuses and huge retirement payouts; etc.). Many of these folks receive tax write-offs for donations or purchasing 'green' items, etc. This burden needs to be shared across the nation.”

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Reader comments

Wed, Sep 21, 2011

I worked for 19 years in the Federal system before ever seeing an annual salary of $19,000.00. Only saw $30,000.00 in the last three years before retiring. All the while hearing from people in the civilian private sector how they were paying for my salary with their tax money. Also during this time I went places no one would ever wish to go, did things under the most austere and arduous conditions imaginable, and did it for far longer than anyone should. Now I'll be the first to admit that the benefits of a reliable retirement and medical support system when I chose to avail myself of them were the lures that offset the poor salary. This however, does not address the fact that during this whole time I too, paid income tax and Social Security tax on the wages I deservedly earned. Now that same government I served wants to renege on their obligation to me, yet at the same time offer "superstar" status to the very same ones proposing legislation to curtain my meager benefits. Blame your party of choice, but it is the elected officials of this nation that have proposed the budgets, spent the funds, and flat out caused the financial crisis all Americans face. Too bad these officials don't see that fact.

Mon, Sep 19, 2011

I am an Electrical Engineer and it seems we work like dogs and get paid like dogs (not even comparable to private sector). There is nothing more frustrating than seeing someone with little to no work running around the office wasting peoples time while you are struggling to keep afloat. The work load is not the same for all of us so you can't make blanket statements. At least half the people in my office have about 15 hrs of work to do in a 40hr work week. The feds waste more than they don't. Its a given. Most of my career was in the private world and there is nothing harder to do than transition to the feds. As a taxpayer, I am very upset. We are one office and the waste in here is in the millions. Makes you wonder about the rest of the feds. The federal workforce needs a serious over haul but no one is courageous enough to take it on but we ALL know it should happen.

Sun, Sep 18, 2011 Mike

Many Federal positions cannot (or should not ) be compared to the civilian sector, due to direct affiliation with the military itself: force replenishment, sustainment, production, etc. I supervise (or have supervised) civil servants, contractors and military personnel. As a Contract Officer Representative (COR), we are taught to abide ‘exactly’ by the contract or performance of work statement, which means contract employees cannot be asked to do anything that is not listed on the agreement (i.e. can’t stay late, etc.). However numerous Feds and Military employees stay late, perform additional duties, and continue to work while off-duty (CAC readers, Blackberry, Web-Mail, etc.). I’d like to see additional measures implemented to ensure that tax avoidance/evasion is reduced: those making money (paid cash), etc. need to pay their fair share of taxes for our nation! In 2008, U.S. unreported income was estimated to be approximately $2 trillion. Thus, 18-19 percent of total reportable income is not properly reported to the IRS. The typical tax evader in the United States is a male under the age of 50 in the highest tax bracket and with a complicated return, and the most common means of tax evasion is overstatement of charitable contributions, particularly church donations.

Sat, Sep 17, 2011 Ron Hill AFB

I know that since NSPS went away a lot more folks are not working hard anymore. Plus Obama freezing pay and giving the working folk a 1% bonus cap and the CEO (AKA SES) levels a 5% bonus cap did not help moral any either.

But that said, there are still many folks who can be seen at the computer with work up or in the lab, and not on the internet surfing or playing games, just like in a real job.

Sat, Sep 17, 2011 Underappreciated Fed

I am a federal employee with a work schedule of 4-10 hour days. I worked an additional 9 hours on Friday and so far today, Saturday, I am at 4 and counting. I do not get over-time, not allowed for my agency. I can claim comp time, but since I can't even use all my annual leave every year what is the point. There are not enough people to do the job and too much work. If me and my office staff, yes they were here Friday and today also, didn't do the extra work, for free, the american public would suffer. So, Mr. only 10% of Feds work, you better check your facts before you state such a ridiculous statement! FYI - priviate sector workers on average earn much more than feds in my line of work. If I left now I would lose 29 years of federal service; not worth it. I am REALLY REALLY tired of people calling us lazy, overpaid federal workers!! We ARE NOT!!

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