Your 1980 salary hike is between a political rock and an economic hard place.
If Hollywood made a thriller of all this, a good title might be "The Incredible Shrinking Pay Raise," or maybe "The Day Ronald Reagan's Shadow Made Washington Stand Still."
Odds are growing that President Carter, who has tentatively halved an 11 percent raise due white collar civil servants in October, could decide more surgery is in order and cut the feds down to nothing
Key Carter aides have concluded there is "no way" the president can "justify" even a watered-down 6.2 percent raise unless Congress okays his federal pay "reform" package by mid-summer. Under the system he wants replaced, federal white collar workers are due an industry catch-up boost of about 11 percent. With "reform" that would shrink to a 6.2 percent raise. Without reform, some are speculating, it might be zero.
On March 25 this column reported "there is a very good chance federal workers will be frozen out of any sort of pay raise this year" unless Carter gets new pay authority. Many unions -- who oppose "reform" -- say such "leaks" to this column amount to blackmail: The choice, as they see it, is to take reform and a 6.2 percent raise, or oppose reform and get nothing.
On Saturday in Atlanta, Alan K. Campbell of the Office of Personnel Management, said the present federal pay system "has lost its credibility. If we do not make major changes and reestablish its credibility, we risk losing the comparability system altogether. The reforms we are proposing," Campbell said, will make the system more accurate and thereby produce results that decisionmakers and critics on all sides of the issue can have confidence in . . ."
Campbell is President Carter's chief adviser on federal personnel matters. He made the statement at field hearings on pay reform. They are being held by Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.). She chairs the House subcommittee that has jurisdiction over federal pay matters. Spellman, who represents a number of federal workers, said it sounded like "blackmail" to her, and she said she couldn't believe President Carter would offer federal workers the choice of "reform" or no raise at all.
It may sound like blackmail, the Carer people say, but it is a realistic, pragmatic statement. They expect Ronald Reagan will be the GOP presidential candidate. And they wouldn't be surprised if the former California governor called for a freeze on federal salaries.
To counter Reagan's attacks on government spending, Carter aids say, the president could be pushed to reduce or eliminate the 1980 raise -- and maybe give it to the military. The way to avoid it, they speculate, would be to put "reform" into effect, and use a pay system that matches government wages and fringe benefits against those in industry. Under it, they expect "fairer" data that the public and Congress would believe and accept.