FAA techies want pay raise

Special salary rate tables for IT workers

Computer specialists at the Federal Aviation Administration who failed to receive this year's information technology special salary rates are demanding equal pay for equal work.

The Office of Personnel Management special IT salaries that took effect Jan. 1 are designed for computer specialists, computer engineers and computer science specialists in the GS-5 through GS-12 grades.

However, the FAA decided not to apply the raise because the agency's separate core compensation plan is market-based, and it already offers salaries competitive with OPM's special IT rates, according to Daniel Mehan, the FAA's chief information officer.

FAA computer specialists disagree. They say many FAA sites have not moved to the core compensation pay scale, in which workers receive salary increases based on performance, and the workers who are still on the General Schedule, or the equivalent of the GS, have fallen through the cracks.

"It doesn't really make us feel comfortable from a public-policy standpoint that computer specialists on these mission-critical systems are the lowest paid in the federal government," said Michael Derby, counsel for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), a union that represents the FAA's technical workers, including 800 FAA computer specialists.

PASS filed a formal grievance Jan. 31 with FAA Administrator Jane Garvey on behalf of computer specialists in the Flight Standards unit who have not moved to the core compensation plan and who have not received the IT special rates, even though they are still on the GS pay scale.

PASS' Airway Facilities collective bargaining unit negotiated its core compensation rates with the FAA as of January, which provides them with the governmentwide 3.7 percent pay increase and an additional 5.5 percent increase over the next five years, Derby said.

"Even with that, it does not equal the 7 [percent] to 33 percent they would get from OPM," Derby said. "People have already made the decision to leave because of this."

Computer specialists in the Flight Standards unit still are negotiating a contract with the FAA, and a resolution may not be reached until this summer. PASS wants those computer specialists to receive the special rates retroactive to the start of this year, Derby said.

Seventy-six computer specialists who are members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2282 at the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, Oklahoma City, also did not receive the raise and are not covered by the core compensation system.

The union is working with the labor management representatives there to see if some sort of increase can be given to make up for it, said Keith Bennett, secretary of the local AFGE office. Bennett said several of the union members are upset and are actively seeking work at other federal agencies where they can receive the pay increase.

"I can go across town to Tinker Air Force Base and get a $3,000-a-year pay increase," Bennett said.

For instance, an employee who is a GS-9 Step 5 makes $40,580. With the special rates, that employee would make $48,992.

Of those 76 computer specialists represented by AFGE in Oklahoma City, 74 are in the GS-11 to GS-12 range. If the core compensation rates were enacted, they would be competitive with the IT special rates, Bennett said.

The range in salaries from GS-11 to GS-12 under the special rates from OPM in places such as Oklahoma City is $47,478 to $70,835. That band under core compensation ranges from $46,087 to $71,284.

Carol Pellicott, a computer specialist in the FAA's Allentown, Pa., Flight Standards District Office, said she would be making about $4,000 more a year if she were receiving OPM's special salary rates. Pellicott works under the FAA's pay system but usually receives any pay increase that is given to GS employees. The pay differential has forced her to consider other job options.

"Comfort doesn't matter," Pellicott said. "It's being paid what you're worth and what the market says you're worth."

An FAA spokeswoman said that union workers not under the core compensation plan must negotiate pay raises. "For bargaining unit employees, the FAA will only implement pay changes as a result of labor negotiations."

Colleen O'Hara contributed to this article.

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