Blue-collar government raises this fall could be double or triple the 5.5 percent pay limit President Carter has slapped on military personnel and white-collar civil servants.
On Monday the House voted to end this September the 5.5 percent ceiling it imposed last year on pay raises for the government's 550,000 skilled craft employes, laborers, mechanics and others under the wage-board pay system. That action does not affect the 5.5 percent limit on white-collar-military pay that the president controls.
It means truck drivers and carpenters in federal agencies could get raises of 10 percent, or 15 percent, while secretaries, scientists and other white-collar civil servants are held to the same 5.5 percent they got last year.
If the Senate upholds the House action, the 5.5 percent pay ceiling for blue-collar employes would end with the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Raises after that for blue-collar workers would allow them full increases to match local industry wage gains, plus the percentage amount they lost during the period of the 5.5 percent limit.
In the Washington area there are 21,000 blue-collar federal workers. Their raise last October was supposed to average 6.9 percent, but they received only 5.5 percent.
Baltimore's 6,900 blue-collar civil servants were due a 9.23 percent industry catch-up last December. But they got only 5.5 percent. The 12,000 in Philadelphia were held at 5.5 percent despite a raise due them of 7.88 percent. The 5.5 percent cap also was put on 4,000 blue-collar federal workers in Hagerstown, Md., Martinsburg, W. Va., and Chambersburg, Pa., who were due on 8.97 percent raise in March.
Norfolk's 19,000 blue-collar federal workers were due an industry catch-up this month of 7.5 percent but were held to 5.5 percent.
Blue-collar pay is set in 135 separate wage areas, based on local industry rates. Salary surveys for Washington are made in August and adjustments come in mid-October.
White-collar government salaries are based on a national industry average. Raises go into effect each October for civilian and military personnel. But Carter cut raises to 5.5 percent in 1978, and intends to do the same thing this year as part of his wage-price control policy.
Language to eliminate the blue-collar pay ceiling was drafted by Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) and pushed through the House by Chairman James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.). Spellman was in hospital when the Treasury-Post Office money bill came up. Hanley, who heads the Post Office-Civil Service Committee argued for elimination of the blue-collar pay raise limit.
The House agreed in approving the appropriation bill. It still must go through the Senate and get past the president. He won't like it, but isn't likely to veto a multimillion dollar money bill just to keep the pay raise ceiling.