Will feds get a pay raise?

President Barack Obama took steps last month to end the two-year federal pay freeze, but neither the size nor the timing of the proposed bump has pleased federal employee unions.

“Clearly, federal employees have sacrificed enough,” Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Aug. 22. The other labor unions haven’t strayed far from that same message.

“The well is dry, Mr. President,” J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said the same day. “Federal employees cannot afford...another day of frozen wages.”

In August, Obama sent congressional leaders a proposal for lifting the freeze on civilian employees’ salaries and increasing pay by 0.5 percent, but the increase would happen in April, after Congress’ anticipated continuing resolution would expire. He recommended that the six-month CR maintain current pay levels. Congressional leaders agreed to the CR in principle before the August recess but have not yet passed it.

Obama also wrote that locality pay percentages for 2013 would stay at 2012 levels. He has the power to adopt alternative plans for pay raises for civilian government workers covered by the General Schedule and certain other pay systems.

Meanwhile, federal employees are steaming as they wait still longer for pay raises, especially after two years without an increase. Federal workers are viewed by many leaders as the piggy bank of the government, Kelley said.

The two-year freeze is saving the government an estimated $60 billion, plus another $15 billion in higher pension contributions from new federal hires. “That is a $75 billion contribution toward deficit reduction from federal employees,” Kelley said. She added that it’s time for others to pay their share, particularly the wealthiest Americans.

Nevertheless, some FCW readers who are government employees are trying to take a positive view of the situation.

“Although it has been difficult to accept the pay freeze, most government workers understand why it was necessary,” one reader wrote. “A temporary freeze is better than a job loss. Many American families are still struggling to find decent employment.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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