Raise gets mixed reviews

The Office of Personnel Management's plan to raise the salaries of about

33,000 information technology workers in government has drawn both praise

and disappointment from employees.

Earlier this month, OPM said federal IT workers would receive a pay

hike ranging from 7 percent to 33 percent starting in January. OPM plans

to give the biggest raises to IT workers at the lower, entry- level grades

because that is where agencies say they are having the most trouble recruiting

workers. The pay raise also should go a long way in helping agencies retain

IT workers tempted to move to the private sector, OPM said.

Although many view the pay raise as a significant step when it comes

to recruiting, some say it may not be as effective when it comes to retaining

skilled workers.

A computer specialist in government, Louis Jilly Jr., accepted a promotion

to a GS-13 two months ago. "If a GS-12 gets only a 12.5 percent special

salary increase, the GS-12 and I will be at the same level of compensation,"

he said. "If I can find one of those positions that'll get the 33 percent

increase, I'll take that job — more money and less aggravation for me, for

sure."

OPM said it will continue to monitor the staffing situation "to determine

whether special rates should be expanded" above GS-12 and encouraged agencies

to use recruitment and relocation bonuses and other available tools. Meanwhile,

if agencies are experiencing problems with other IT occupations, they may

ask OPM to grant special salary rates.

Another IT professional said he also will miss out on the pay raise

because he is classified as a computer assistant. "I believe that many people

are working in the wrong classification because of their training," he said.

Fred Thompson, program manager for IT workforce improvement at the Treasury

Department, said employees who feel they are doing mostly IT work but are

not classified as an IT worker can ask for an audit to place them in another

series. "If their personnel office agrees, then they would get the raise,"

Thompson said.

Ira Hobbs, deputy chief information officer at the Agriculture Department

and the co-chairman of the CIO Council's Federal IT Workforce Committee,

agreed that this is an important first move. "We see this as a recruiting

tool [to use] in the areas where we're most vulnerable," Hobbs said.

However, when it comes to retention, it may not be enough to persuade

IT employees at the higher levels to stay. Other issues, such as career

development, "really do have a lot more to do with retention than salary,"

Thompson said.

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