Federal Employee Groups Lobby Against Pay Freeze Vote

By on January 18, 2013 in Current Events, Pay & Benefits with 27 Comments

Groups representing federal employees have been speaking out on the House’s scheduled vote on a bill that would continue the pay freeze for the federal workforce.

Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the legislation earlier this week. H.R. 273 would overturn an across-the-board pay hike of 0.5% that is scheduled to go into effect this spring. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill next week.

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Joseph A. Beaudoin sent a letter to House members urging them to vote against the proposal. “This bill is nothing more than another direct attack on hardworking public servants. Instead of pushing political messaging bills, Congress should focus on the real issues lawmakers need to address in the next two months, including sequestration, the debt limit and the expiring continuing resolution,” said Beaudoin.

NTEU National President Colleen M. Kelley also sent a letter to the House with the same message. “It is past time to allow them the tiny pay increase this bill would eliminate,” said Kelley.

The full text of both letters is included below.

 

Dear Representative:

As National President of the National Treasury Employees Union, representing over 150,000 federal employees in 31 agencies across government, I urge you to vote no on HR 273, sponsored by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). HR 273 is the latest version of an effort to eliminate even the most modest increase in pay for federal employees. As you are aware, federal employees have been under a pay freeze for over two years. Under current law, a one half percent pay increase is scheduled to go into effect after the current Continuing Resolution ends, on March 27, 2013. HR 273 will be considered on the House floor next week.

Federal employees have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction through the lengthy pay freeze and by increased contributions to retirement for new employees. No other group has been singled out this way.

A more than two year pay freeze, constant threats of government shutdowns and furloughs, working with fewer resources because of budget cuts – these are things that federal employees live with every day. Yet, they continue to provide the vital services our citizens depend on. It is past time to allow them the tiny pay increase this bill would eliminate. Vote No on HR 273.

Sincerely,

Colleen M. Kelley
National President

 

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the five million federal employees and annuitants represented by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), I urge you to oppose H.R. 273, which extends the current two-year pay freeze on federal employees’ salaries for another year, and is expected to be voted on next week.

This bill is nothing more than another direct attack on hardworking public servants. Instead of pushing political messaging bills, Congress should focus on the real issues lawmakers need to address in the next two months, including sequestration, the debt limit and the expiring continuing resolution.

Some members of Congress cite a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study regarding federal pay to support the policy of an extended pay freeze. That study’s methodology ignores important facts, and includes irrelevant factors for setting pay. While the CBO study controls for occupation, general education and years of work experience, it does not take into account level of job responsibility, specialized training and length of tenure with an employer, all of which employers take into account when determining pay. Federal jobs often involve high levels of responsibility and require specialized training or high-security clearance. Also, federal employees often make public service a career. On average, today’s federal employees have 15 years of service. Furthermore, the study controls for certain factors, such as age, race and gender, that, legally, are irrelevant for the purposes of determining pay. Most concerning, the study only uses data through 2010, failing to take into account the two-year pay freeze.

More recent data from the nonpartisan Bureau of Labor Statistics show that federal jobs pay approximately 35 percent less than similar private-sector jobs. Federal benefits are not enough to make up that difference on their own, let alone when taking into account the benefits available for similar private-sector jobs.

But even if you assume that federal employees are overpaid on average – an incorrect assumption – it does not follow that all federal employees are overpaid.  Even the CBO study, which underestimates the equivalent private-sector compensation for federal employees, finds that for the most highly educated individuals, federal workers have salaries that are 23 percent less than salaries of private-sector workers with other similar characteristics.

Since the beginning of 2011, the budget savings derived from reduced compensation to the federal workforce have totaled at least $103 billion ($50,000 per employee) over 10 years. This includes $60 billion worth of budget savings from the first two years of the pay freeze, and $28 billion from the reduced scheduled 0.5 percent pay raise proposed by the President. Based on the Employment Cost Index, federal pay scales should have increased by 1.7 percent in January. The federal workforce also contributed $15 billion, achieved through a 2.3 percent increase in newly hired federal employees’ retirement contributions, used to offset the cost of an additional ten months of unemployment insurance spending as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (P.L.112-96).

If Congress cancels the very modest 0.5 percent pay raise proposed by the President, federal employees and their families will take an additional hit, to the tune of $11 billion, for a total of $114 billion. Enough is enough. It is time Congress found other ways to reduce the deficit then to continually take from those who dedicate their lives to public service.

Continuing the pay freeze will only exacerbate the problem of an underpaid federal workforce and weaken the quality of our federal civil service over time. We can only hope the constant devaluation of federal service will not deprive us of the highly skilled intelligence officers needed to piece clues together to find the next Bin Laden, lower the quality of doctors caring for our veterans or researching a cure for cancer, or thin the pool of qualified leaders necessary for every aspect of government. These are real threats that must be considered as the attacks on our nation’s federal workforce continue.

For these reasons, I urge you to vote against H.R. 273. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact NARFE’s Legislative Director, Jessica Klement, at jklement@narfe.org or 703.838.7760. Thank you for your time and consideration of my views.

Sincerely,

Joseph A. Beaudoin
National President

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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