The White House would have authority to increase or decrease the amount of annual leave (vacation) and sick leave federal workers get if Congress approves a sweeping new compensation "reform" package.
The Reagan administration's proposal would link federal salaries to the going rate for similar jobs in hometown industry. Catch-up-with-industry raises each October would be based on changes in total industry compensation (pay and fringes) rather than on pay alone, as is now the case.
Under the current "comparability" pay system, federal white-collar workers are supposed to get annual percentage pay raises to keep them on a par with the private sector. But the president does have the authority to lower the so-called comparability raise subject to a rejection by Congress. Last year President Carter proposed a pay "reform" plan similar to the Reagan package. It too would have embraced the TCC (total compensation concept) and counted the value of federal fringe benefits -- estimated at between 30 percent and 40 percent of payroll -- when matching government versus private compensation.
Carter's pay reform plan would have resulted in a 1980 raise of around 6.2 percent for workers. But Congress ignored the reform package. In August, in an attempt to gain the votes of federal employes, Carter authorized an Oct. 1 adjustment of 9.1 percent.
In his budget, President Reagan said adoption of his pay reform plan would result in a federal pay raise this October of 4.8 percent. Many people believe the TCC system, comparing government pay and fringe packages with industry, would result in smaller future federal pay raises because government fringe benefits -- estimated at 30 percent to 40 percent of payroll -- tend to be more generous than those in private industry. The federal retirement system is generally superior to most private pension programs. Federal workers get 26 days of annual leave a year after 15 years of service. Those with more than three years but fewer than 15 years' service get 20 days leave annually, and employes with less than 3 years seniority earn 13 days a year.
Officials say the Reagan proposal, which would also give him authority to raise or lower government contributions to health and life insurance (but not lower them below legal minimums), is not as tough as the Carter pay reform plan.
The Reagan bill calls for expansion of the Federal Employees Pay Council (now made up of major federal unions) to include professional groups and associations. The council would "negotiate" with the president on the pay package, but it would be up to him to determine its final form.
As an example of how it might work, officials say that the administration would, as many private firms do, present the pay council with a dollar or percentage figure that it was willing to give toward pay and fringes. It would be up to the council, speaking for its members and employes represented by unions, to determine the shape of that package. It could be, they say, that the amount of the proposed pay increase could be reduced, and that money could be part of a higher government contribution toward health, life insurance or some other fringe benefit.
Authority to change the amount of sick and annual leave would be used, the administration says, "to make the government's leave system more comparable with nonfederal leave programs and practices; to provide greater flexibility and freedom of choice to employes; or to improve the administration of the leave program." The president would report to Congress on any proposed changes, and publish them in the Federal Register. Congress would have an opportunity to overrule those proposals. If it did not do so, the changes would go into effect.