Labor unions disappointed at 1 percent pay raise Obama to propose for federal workers

Joe Davidson
Columnist February 24

Federal labor leaders are disappointed with President Obama’s proposal to raise federal employee pay by 1 percent next year.

The proposal will be included in the administration’s budget, which Obama will announce next week. His spending plan also will include a 1 percent raise for members of the military.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. View Archive

“I strongly believe that federal employees deserve more, and this amount is inadequate,” said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union(NTEU). “There is no question in my mind that inadequate raises will have consequences on recruitment and retention.”

Kelley says a 3.3 percent increase would be “fair and reasonable,” and she said NTEU members would take their case to Congress during their legislative conference that opens Wednesday.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the proposed increase “is a small step in the right direction, but not nearly enough” given the pay freezes, furloughs and benefit cuts imposed on the federal workforce over the past three years.

A spokesman for committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said he is reserving comment until Obama releases the entire spending plan. But at this point, it does not appear that Republicans will attempt to block the increase.

The proposed raises are the same as civilians and troops received this year.

An administration official said the proposed civilian increase “reflects the tight budget constraints we continue to face, while also recognizing the critical role these civilian employees play in our country — doing everything from assuring the safety of our food and airways, to securing our borders, to providing health care to veterans, to searching for cures to diseases. It also recognizes the sacrifices they have already made through prior pay freezes, reductions in awards and furloughs due to sequestration last year.”

Until this year, civilian basic pay rates were frozen for three years, and furloughs in 2013 caused some federal employees to take a pay cut.

Union leaders say the 1 percent increase would not be enough to compensate for those sacrifices.

“That recommendation does not even keep up with inflation, which stands at 1.6 percent over the last year,” said Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called the 1 percent increase “pitiful.”

The administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also said the budget plan would include “other measures important to ensuring that federal employees are fairly compensated and have the training and tools needed to succeed.”

The training will include “exchanges across agencies to share best practices and increase leadership development opportunities within government,” the official said. Increased training opportunities also would be available to senior managers with an emphasis on “diversity and the changing needs of a 21st century workforce.”

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said the training initiative “is welcome news, however, the challenge will be freeing executives from their daily responsibilities and often very long hours to take advantage of those opportunities.”

She welcomed an Obama plan to provide training programs for new senior executives and suggested that the training also should be offered to new political appointees.

Military personnel have received pay raises every year of Obama’s presidency.

“The pay increase is part of a larger package of compensation reforms,” the official added, “that our military leadership has recommended to control rising compensation costs and allow for investments in the training, equipment and support that our troops need.”

Obama this month carried out a promise from his State of the Union address, signing an executive order to set a minimum wage of $10.10 an hourfor workers hired by private companies under new government service contracts, starting next year.

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.

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