Workforce

Senate panel advances pay raise for feds

Image: Shutterstock/vipman 

Federal employees would receive a pay raise under a bill cleared by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, going against the White House's proposal for a pay freeze.

The Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), approved a 1.9 percent pay raise for feds.

In its fiscal year 2019 budget, among other workforce-related cuts, the White House proposed a civilian pay freeze, whiling bumping military pay up 2.6 percent.

The panel's June 19 approval of the bill, which is slated to be marked up by the full committee June 21, was applauded by federal unions.

David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 700,000 federal employees, called the bill "a tremendous show of support."

"This modest pay adjustment would help prevent federal employees from falling further behind next year and help federal agencies recruit and retain the high-caliber workforce that the public expects and deserves," he said.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union representing 150,000 employees across 32 agencies, applauded the bill's approval.

"Keeping government salaries competitive is key to recruiting and retaining the most qualified employees, and we encourage Congress to approve a raise for civilian employees as a sign that their work is valued," he said.

However, Lankford tempered expectations for the bill's chances, acknowledging, "the history of this bill getting to the floor has not been good."

"So the hope is to be able to actually get this to the floor, do the amendment process, then be able to work it … all the way through," he said.

And while the subcommittee advanced the pay raise, other cuts and workforce restrictions, which have drawn fierce criticism from unions, are still in the works.

The Office of Personnel Management rolled out a series of legislative proposals in May that cut retirement benefits by $143 billion over four years, and OPM Director Jeff Pon has said he's looking for Congress to enact workforce reform legislation.

President Donald Trump signed three workforce-related executive orders to make it easier to fire civil service employees, reduce official time spent on union activities and direct agencies to negotiate cost-reducing collective bargaining agreements. AFGE and NTEU filed lawsuits in response to the orders.

The White House did propose a $1 billion workforce fund to cover recruiting, retention and performance incentives, and OPM is also looking at pay and hiring flexibilities to get in-demand skillsets into government.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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