Senior exec group urges changes to pay system

The Senior Executives Association will press Congress for much-needed changes to Senior Executives Service pay levels and its pay-for-performance system in the next year, SEA’s top officials said.

SEA President Carol Bonosaro, speaking June 10 at the organization’s 2008 Career Executive Leadership Conference in Washington, said SES pay increases haven’t kept pace with those in the General Schedule system and are an impediment to recruiting new senior executives from the GS ranks.

She said senior executives who received “fully successful” rating in 2006 under the SES pay for performance system received a 2 percent salary increase on average. SES members who exceeded expectations got 3 percent raise and those were outstanding got 3.7 percent increase on average.

“If ‘fully successful’ is indeed a good rating, SEA believes that the pay increase at that level should be assured and reflect not only inflation but also local conditions,” she said. “It certainly should not be less than what those employees who are being supervised by the senior executives are receiving as an annual adjustment.”

Bill Bransford, SEA’s general counsel, said the organization has proposed to key legislators that SES members who receive a “fully successful” or better rating be given an assured increase of “some amount of money” — at least more than the 2 percent increase in 2006.

“We think this is important because it would give those GS-14s and 15s a sense of comfort that if they made the decision to come into the SES, at least they would get something every year if they did a reasonably good job and wouldn’t lose their place to inflation,” he said.

Bonosaro said another concern is that GS top pay is increasing overlapping SES pay, which makes it even more difficult to recruit talented, upper-rank GS employees to the SES.

“The Washington, D.C., locality area pay for GS-15 Step 10 now equals Executive Schedule 4 — $149,000,” she said.

Given the predicted retirement wave in the senior executive ranks in the coming years, there is an urgent need for improvements to the SES pay system, she said.

“What we’re hearing is that a lot of GS-15s are saying, ‘I don’t necessarily want a [24/7] job with more responsibilities, fewer rights, no locality pay and no assured annual pay adjustments — it just does not make sense,’” she said.

This is why we think there have got to be some fixes and Congress has got to get more concerned pretty quickly,” she added.

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