A reader’s email pointed out that Federal Wage System (FWS) employees, by statute, are to be paid 100 percent of prevailing wages at the step 2 level, and 112 percent of prevailing wages at the step 5 level. The reader went on to say that in fact FWS employees are not being paid at these wage levels, and asked why this is so.
In an article I did for FedSmith back in April I talked about this very issue. In researching the question I found that at least since 1989, and probably since before that year, the FWS has not operated as the law intended it to do. Rather, Congress has passed legislation each year that has limited the amount of the increase for FWS employees to the same percentage as the increase given to General Schedule (GS) employees. The result, as the reader pointed out, is that in many places there is a significant difference between what the prevailing rates are and the rates being paid to FWS employees.
The only solution to this situation is for Congress to allow the FWS to operate as the law intended. However, in the Federal Government’s current fiscal condition, and with the Congress not being favorably disposed to Federal employees at the moment, the possibility at this time of the FWS being allowed to operate as it was designed seems fairly small.