Three months ago federal workers were hurt and furious because the president's budget provided for only a 5 percent pay raise this October. Well, those were the good old days.
It now appears that U.S. employes--there are 347,000 of them here--will not get any pay adjustment this October, and will be held to a 4 percent increase in 1983, and another 4 percent increase in 1984. There is a good chance that federal and military retirees, who are supposed to get a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) next March 1, will have to wait until early 1984 for their next one.
The Senate Budget Committee has approved a budget that freezes U.S. pay--civilian and military--for 1983, and defers the COLA raise for 100,000 retirees here until 1984. The Senate Armed Services Committee says that maybe it can do something for the military, but that civilian workers had better get ready to bite the bullet.
Federal union leaders and the few members of Congress kindly disposed to government workers are pessimistic that any kind of raise will be authorized this year.
"There is just no support for federal workers, except in the Washington area," a House Democratic staff member said. "People have this image of federal workers as paper-pushing drones in green eyeshades who get paid too much for shuffling papers. They don't think about FBI agents, or cancer researchers at NIH, or the Secret Service guys who throw themselves in front of the president, or astronauts as federal workers. I'm afraid that whatever the president or the Congress do to federal workers will be applauded by the public at large."
Jim Pierce, National Federation of Federal Employees president, said his reading is that government workers are "bruised, with their backs against the wall."