In a Washington Post op-ed published Friday, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley said she takes issue with some of the report’s conclusions, which were widely reported earlier this week before House lawmakers voted to extend a pay freeze for federal employees.
Despite the headlines trumpeting findings that federal “bureaucrats” are overpaid, those workers “are among the lowest-paid federal employees, doing unglamorous but critical work around the country,” Kelley writes. “They include border-security personnel, customer service representatives and food safety workers. And the main reason they come out ahead of their private-sector counterparts in the CBO report is because the federal government, as any responsible business should, provides basic benefits such as paid sick leave and health coverage.”
“It is clear that the public and its representatives in Congress do not support compensating even the most educated and skilled employees at the level they could attain in the private sector,” Kelley writes. “Nor would these employees ever see the kinds of monetary and non-monetary perks their counterparts in the private sector receive, such as paid sabbaticals, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, bonuses, stock options, on-site spas and more.”
“The federal government, as one of the nation’s largest employers, must set a standard of basic fairness,” she adds later. “Contrary to portrayals of ‘generous’ federal benefits, federal employees do not receive paid dental or vision coverage or paid parental leave, nor do they get rich off their pensions. The typical lifetime federal employee will have an annuity from the defined benefit of approximately $1,000 per month. The government’s 401(k)-like fund, the Thrift Savings Plan, may provide around $400 per month if the average employee is able to contribute 5 percent of his or her salary for 30 years. While many private-sector entities have taken to eliminating or slashing health insurance and retirement benefits, especially for low-paid employees, our leaders should not support a race to the bottom for working Americans. Rather, they should seek out ways to increase economic and retirement security for those who may never be able to retire.”
Republican lawmakers see things differently and overwhelmingly voted this week to freeze civilian federal and congressional salaries for another year starting next January. President Obama is expected to proposed a modest 0.5 percent pay increase in his federal budget proposal later this month — a proposal GOP lawmakers vow to block.
Administration and union officials note that Obama’s proposed raise is well below the average private-sector pay increase. They also dispute the CBO study because it did not include data from the past two years of the federal pay freeze, which would have an affect on the overall federal-vs.-private-sector pay comparison.
In other words, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon. Stay tuned.
What do you think? The comments section awaits your thoughts.
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