FAA Announces Pay Raises

By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Federal Aviation Administration told its employees yesterday that they would receive a 3.08 percent pay raise and a geographic-based increase that will average about 1 percent plus an additional raise based on individual job performance.

The raises will go to most of the FAA's 45,000 employees, including air traffic controllers. Nearly 85 percent of the FAA workforce is covered by pay-for-performance rules, and 50 percent -- managers, supervisors, headquarters and regional office employees -- are covered by a system known as core compensation.

The basic pay raise of 3.08 percent could have been higher, but FAA acting administrator Robert A. Sturgell said employees fell short of meeting all of the agency's performance goals, such as on-time arrivals, financial management and customer satisfaction.

For 2008, base pay in the core compensation system will range from $16,900 to $159,700, excluding geographic-based increases, or locality pay.

Congress moved the FAA out of the government-wide pay system in 1995 as part of a larger effort to give the agency more leeway in hiring and promoting employees. Since then, the FAA's unionized workforce has grown, and pay rules often vary by union and occupation.

The FAA's core compensation system features pay bands, with broad salary ranges, instead of the traditional grade-and-step General Schedule used in most other parts of the government.

In a message to employees, Sturgell said the FAA will raise the top of the pay bands by 2.5 percent, allowing employees in the core compensation system to earn more in the future and ensure the agency remains competitive in the labor market.

Employees at the top of the pay bands had complained about the ceilings, in part because they received their pay increase in a lump sum rather than a raise. Under the system's rules, the lump sum does not count toward retirement credits, a sore point for many employees.

Pay also has been a flashpoint for the National Air Traffic Controllers Union. It objected to an agency decision last year to impose a contract that cut starting salaries for new controllers by 30 percent.

Employees in the core compensation system and most unionized employees are eligible for "superior contribution increases," or pay raises tied to their job performance. In his message yesterday, Sturgell said the highest individual performance raise will be 1.8 percent.

If the FAA follows past practice, no more than 20 percent of the employees will receive the 1.8 percent performance-related raise, and up to 45 percent will receive a 0.6 percent performance raise. That leaves about a third of the employees with just the agency-wide raise and locality pay, while a few employees will not get a raise because of unacceptable job performance.

The start of the year is typically the time when the government announces pay raises.

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