Forty-two percent of the managers and supervisors who got "merit pay" raises this year were short-changed, according to critics of the new performance pay system. Those critics take in many of the 150,000 people, including about 60,000 Grade 13, 14 and 15 types, in metro Washington.

The carrot-and-stick pay system was created by President Jimmy Carter's Civil Service Reform Act. The idea is to prod the bureaucracy's middle-management people a bit, by taking away automatic longevity raises that other feds get (worth 3 percent) and limiting managers to half the regular October percentage pay increase that their subordinates receive automatically. In return for this take-away, the supervisors and managers were supposed to be eligible for some relatively juicy additional pay raises, based on performance. Like so many things that sound great on paper, it didn't exactly work out that way.

The General Accounting Office scuttled a "merit pay" plan that the Office of Personnel Management had worked out. It reduced the pool of money available to pay the150,000 or so people whose first merit raises came due last month. OPM then decided to give managers-supervisors the same 4.8 percent raise most other civil servants got. On top of that, some managers got scaled-down merit raises ranging from about .6 percent to a little less than 2 percent. What ticks the managers-supervisors off, however, is that even those who got the top merit raise got less than they would have under the premerit system, which allowed them to get longevity raises (3 percent) or Quality Step Increases (3 percent) or in some cases, both.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who represents a lot of unhappy GS 13, 14 and 15 people, is working on legislation that will allow managers and supervisors to requalify for longevity pay raises, get full pay raises each October plus merit raises over and above regular amounts. If people are good enough to be under merit pay, Wolf says, they should get paid for it. If they are not, they should not be managers and supervisors.