Government secretaries, other clerical workers and beginning professionals would get a pay raise of nearly 13 percent this October, if Uncle Sam sticks to the rules that require him to pay white-collar bureaucrats the same salaries earned by their counterparts in private industry, according to a preliminary report prepared for the White House.
Staff data being worked up for the president's pay agents -- the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, and the secretary of labor -- also indicate that, on a straight salary matchup, senior level government managers are 23.3 percent behind people doing the same jobs in private industry. By law the agents must issue a recommendation to the president, but he and Congress already have said that 4.8 percent is the most the government's million-plus white collar workers can expect to get this October.
The salary information worked up for the pay agents is drawn from a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of salaries paid for various jobs in private industry throughout the nation. BLS makes an annual survey of private industry pay levels each March as part of the so-called comparability pay system that has rarely worked as written into law.
The president is supposed to authorize those comparability raises or send an alternative plan to Congress if he thinks the increases are out of line or the economy is in bad shape.
Both the Carter and Reagan administrations asked Congress to set up a new system that would match "total compensation" -- that is, wages and fringe benefits -- between government and industry. Using that yardstick, federal workers (with generally superior fringe benefits) would be due smaller October increases each year. Carter's plan would have given them about 5.5 percent this October. Reagan's math makes the "total compensation" raise worth only 4.8 percent. Reagan will make the formal recommendation later this month, but Congress has already agreed to it.
There are 300,000 white-collar workers in metro D.C.
This is what the 1981 raise would look like if you got a straight salary catchup with what industry was paying for your job in March. This is what you are worth, not what you will get:
Grade 1 workers under a straight comparability system are due a 12.73 raise this year. There are 2,925 people in GS 1 . . . Grade 2 (20,455 people) would get 12.41 percent . . . Grade 3, (81,916), a 12.20 percent raise . . . Grade 4, (165,153), 12.09 percent . . . Grade 5 (189,554), a 12.08 percent raise . . . Grade 6 (89,230) would get 12.17 percent.
Grade 7 workers (129,965 of them) would get an October raise of 12.37 . . . Grade 8 (27,338) would get 12.67 . . . Grade 9 (139,468), a 13.08 percent catchup . . . Grade 10 (28,998), 13.59 percent . . . Grade 11 (154,526), 14.21 percent . . . Grade 12 (161,066), a 15.79 percent raise . . . Grade 13 (112,160), a 17.81 percent raise. . . Grade 14 (59,128), a 20.32 percent raise, and Grade 15, with 28,223 workers, would be due a catchup raise in October of 23.33 percent.
For comparison purposes, government salaries range from $7,960 to $9,712 for the handful of GS1 personnel, to a spread of $12,266 to $15,947 for Grade 5, the most heavily populated grade.
Federal unions, and their friends in Congress, will use these pay figures to argue for larger October increases for government white-collar workers. But Congress and the White House already have said that 4.8 percent is the most feds can get. If nothing else, you can use these figures to tell your spouse, landlord and kids that -- no matter what your paycheck says -- you are worth a lot more on paper!