President Carter today is expected to announce mandatory wage controls for the government's 3.2 million white collar workers and military personnel.
His proposal, if accepted by Congress, would limit government employe pay raises this October to around 5.4 percent, instead of the catchup-with-industry raise of between 6 percent and 6.5 percent workers had expected.
For the past several weeks, White House economists have urged the President to set controls for government wages to put teeth into his program of "voluntary restraints" for private industry.
Advisers on civil service matters have argued that this would be unfair, and could jeapordize the President's civil servis decision is expected to be announced today in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Federal and military wages are the only major pay item in the economy of Congress - can contril directly. His that the President - with the consent speech today, billed as a major anti-inflation policy address, is expected to ask labor and industry to keep 1978 wage and price increases "significantly below" average increases for the past two years.
On Jan. 21, the column reported that the White House planners were even then considering a federal-military pay raise of 5.9 percent or less to persuade labor and industry voluntarily to "decelerate" the rate of inflation.
The 6 percent federal-military pay raise originally anticipated in the President's budget would cost about $3.3 billion and, for the 300,000 white collar workers in metro Washington, amount to about $23 a week, before taxes.
"Money, that is difference between 5.4 percent and 6 percent or even 6.5 percent, is not really the issue," a federal pay expert said. With a combined payroll totaling nearly $70 billion, "shaving a point just isn't the issue." What the White House hopes to do, if it puts a "cap" on federal-military pay, is to make a rather dramatic gesture to the rest of the economy to hold the line.
As late as yesterday afternoon, federal union leaders said they still were hoping the President would reject the idea of mandatory controls for government workers.
"If he does it without a strong policy for holding down prices, and keeping private wage increases in line, we will have had it with the administration" one union official exclaimed.
Kenneth T. Blaylock, president of the biggest federal employe union, said his American Federation of Government Employes would withdraw support of the President's civil service reform plan if mandatory controls apply only to the federal sector.
Blaylock said government workers would "shoulder our share of the burden" in fighting inflation, "but we won't carry it alone."
If President Carter decides to hold down the federal-military pay increase below the comparability with industry figure, Congress would have to approve his alternate plan. But since this is an election year, and members of Congress will get the same raise as other civil servants, political experts doubt Congress would buck an inflation-fighting program, especially if they had to raise their own salaries to do it.
Ironically, mandatory wage controls for white collar government workers will not affect an even larger group of government employes - the government's blue collar and postal employes.
Wages of the half million blud collar workers (laborers, mechanics and skilled tradesmen) are set locally according to increases in wages for similar jobs in the private sector. So far this year, their pay increases have average 8 percent.
The nation's 600,000 postal employes bargain independently with the U.S. Postal Service on wages and working conditions. Contract talks begin later this month to replace a 3-yea agreement that expires in mid-July. Postal union leaders have indicated that wage controls imposed on white collar workers will not cause them to lessen demands for regular pay increases and cost-of-living raises, too.
Jobs: HEW in Rockville has openings for Grade 9 through 12 contract negotiators. Call 443-5407 . . . Air Force in Southwest D.C. needs GS 4 or 5 IBM MAG Card II operators. Call 693-1942.
Assistant Attorney General Patricia M. Wald is the guest of honor Thursday at a 5:30 p.m. reception sponsored by the Younger Lawyers Section of the Federal Bar Association. Persons over 36 are welcome, too, at the National Lawyers Club session.