Pay raises and performance

A Reader Writes:

A few weeks ago, feds received the balance of the 4.1 percent raise. At least some did. The computer people who are in an entirely different pay area didn't. We got the 3.1 percent raise, but when questioned, the Office of Personnel Management claims our raise included the other 1 percent. Is this true? Somehow I don't believe it.

Milt Replies:

In January, feds received notice that pay adjustments for prevailing rate employees had been set at 3.1 percent for fiscal 2003 (Public Law 108-2).

Then in February, Public Law 108-7 provided that pay increases in fiscal 2003 for wage employees may not exceed 4.31 percent.

Agencies had issued prevailing rate wage schedules based on the 3.1 percent pay limitation. Where necessary, they will reissue the schedules using the new 4.31 percent pay limitation.

Depending on local prevailing rates, some reissued wage schedules may have higher pay rates under the 4.31 percent pay limitation than under the 3.1 percent pay limitation, but some schedules may remain the same. Therein may lie your answer.

An April 2 memo from the Office of Personnel Management explains this in more detail.

Federal Wage System wage schedules are accessible at the Wage and Salary Division of the Department of Defense Civilian Personnel Management Service (

A Reader Writes:

I always see that studies and the Republicans are continuing to push for pay for performance. I support the concept, but it is very much flawed.

I have worked for more than 31 years and have seen many times where management has recognized individuals with performance bonuses when the individual did not earn them.

Do you think that the concept will really work to motivate people in work harder when there is so much favoritism in civil service? Wasn't this the reason the federal government provides an annual raise for every civil service employee?

Milt Replies:

Pay for performance is a great idea but it is difficult to implement, even in the private sector. A lot depends on the nature of the work.

If work performance is easy to measure, pay for performance can work well. For example, the person who produces the most "widgets" gets a performance-based award. But if a job doesn't lend itself to measurement, pay for performance will collapse, and be replaced by cronyism.

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


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