Foul called on IT pay supplement

A Reader Writes:

I am writing to you about a situation that has developed because of the way the Office of Personnel Management implemented the special information technology pay supplement.

As you are probably aware, in January 2001, OPM implemented the special IT pay supplement that gives federal IT employees in Grades 7 through 13 a sliding scale increase in pay. The sliding scale decreases as the grade increases, so for a Grade 13, base pay plus IT supplement is less than base pay plus locality pay. In effect, the IT supplement stops at the Grade 12 level.

But are you aware that since OPM implemented the federal IT pay supplement, IT employees who are being promoted from a Grade 12 to a Grade 13 are jumping to a step that is four or five steps higher than they would have gone to without the IT supplement? This is because even though the supplement stops at the Grade 13 level, Grade 12s are allowed to bring their supplement with them to the Grade 13 level!

This has created an environment where the newly promoted are leap-frogging way past other IT employees who have been at Grade 13 for several years, who were promoted to a Grade 13 in earlier rounds — before the IT supplement — presumably because they were more qualified. It has created a frustrating and damaging inequity among IT coworkers.

For example, before the IT supplement, a GS 12-10 was promoted to a GS 13-6. Since January 2001, after OPM implemented the supplement, that same GS 12-10 is promoted to a GS 13-10. This is a difference of four steps, more than $8,400 a year!

It takes 11 years for a GS 13-6 to get to a GS 13-10. Over those 11 years, while "catching up" to the newly promoted, the GS 13-6 will lose about $54,800 in pay in today's dollars with the accompanying loss in retirement and Thrift Savings Plan contributions. Can you imagine how demoralizing it is to work side by side with coworkers who were promoted after you but who now have this advantage on you?

Here is another real-world example from my agency as calculated by our personnel department. Nine of us computer specialists, 334 series, were promoted in August 2000 from a Grade 12 to a Grade 13.

Before PromotionAfter PromotionIf Promoted Today Difference
Employee 1:GS 12-10GS13-6GS13-10 4 Steps
Employee 2:GS 12-7 GS13-3 GS13-85 Steps
Employee 3:GS 12-10 GS13-6 GS13-10 4 Steps
Employee 4:GS 12-4 GS13-1 GS13-5 4 Steps
Employee 5:GS 12-6 GS13-3 GS13-7 4 Steps
Employee 6: GS 12-10 GS13-6 GS13-10 4 Steps
Employee 7: GS 12-10 GS13-6 GS13-10 4 Steps
Employee 8: GS 12-6 GS13-3 GS13-7 4 Steps
Employee 9:GS 12-9 GS13-5 GS13-10 5 Steps

As you can see, in every case, if promoted today instead of in August 2000, we would be four or five steps higher. Think about this. It takes 11 years to make up four steps, 13 years to make up five steps! Many of us have fallen 11 or more years behind employees who are being promoted after us.

In addition, we watch as coworker after coworker who is being promoted after us jumps past us. (To be fair, it is not our coworkers' faults that this is happening, and we bear no grudge against them.) The implications of the lost wages, the lost retirement contributions and the lost seniority are destroying the morale of existing IT Grade 13 employees who were promoted before OPM implemented the IT pay supplement.

Something must be done to correct this situation! Is there anything you can do to help publicize our situation?

Milt Replies

I agree that there is an apparent disparity that should have been considered. But if you increase GS-13 pay, those at the GS-14 level might complain.

GS 12s are taking their special pay with them upon promotion, but only once. Then things slow down. The newly promoted GS 13 must wait longer for his/her next step increase. And the windfall that awaits the new GS 13 doesn't hurt those who already are GS 13s.

Does anyone have any suggestions that would be fair to GS 14s?

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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