Despite the 14-hour period during which their employer technically was broke, some good things have happened this week for most federal workers. For example:
The 1 million white-collar civil servants (300,000 of them here) will be getting a 9.1 percent raise. That increase goes into effect with the first pay period of the month. The date is Oct. 5 for most people.
Government statistics showed it would take a 13.49 percent October increase to bring white-collar federal pay up to industry levels. But President Carter rejected that recommendation (along with recommendations of some staffers that he give U.S. workers nothing this year) and proposed the 9.1 percent raise.
The law, Congress had 30 days to veto the alternate (9.1 percent) recommendation and order the higher amount. It did nothing, which it has done a lot of this week, so the 9.1 percent figure sticks.
Blue-collar federal workers, who are paid under a different catch-up-with-industry system, will get raises on time. But they will be limited to a maximum increase of 9.1 percent because of congressional action. Last year the "wage board" aides (drivers, mechanics, carpenters and skilled trades people) also were limited to the same raises as white-collar U.S. employes. an increase on Oct. 19. If the wage survey run by the Defense Department shows they are due less than 9.1 percent, they will be held to 9.1 percent.
Federal executives earning $50,112.50 or more will not get any raise this year.Both the president and Congress decided it would be unwise, in an election year, to give raises to higher-level executives. That pay freeze also applies to members of Congress who find it healthier to wait until nonelection years to give themselves a raise.
Federal judges may get a raise later this year. Or they may not. Technically they are under the same freeze order as other U.S. executives. But there is a test case pending before the Supreme Court that could force the government to give them the same pay raise as that given to rank-and-file federal workers. The issue is even more complicated because judges, who are paid monthly in most cases, began their new pay period yesterday -- Oct. 1. That was before Congress cleared the continuing resolution that allows the government to keep operating through December. That resolution included the pay cap for judges. Some people will argue that since the cap was not imposed in time, the judges are due an increase after all.