The General Accounting Office says it is still unhappy with the Office of Personnel Management's plan to require senior employes to leap higher hurdles than other workers to get a within-grade pay raise.

In fact, GAO says it is so unhappy that it would "be favorably disposed" to grant the within-grade raise (worth 3 percent) to any employe denied one under the proposed OPM performance rules.

At present, white collar federal workers get a within-grade raise every year or two in the first six steps of their grade if they maintain "an acceptable level of competence." Employes in higher stepset a within-grade raise every three years.

OPM wants to impose a standardized five-level rating system on federal agencies. Under the plan, employefirst six steps of a grade would get regular within-grade increases if they got a rating of "fully successful."

But workers in the upper reaches of the gradeould have to get a rating of "exceeds fully successful" or better, to get the raise.

GAO challenged OPM on e-standard proposal before. OPM replied that it had the legal authority to set different standards within a gro so.

On July 5 Comptroller General Charles Bowsher wrote OPM Director Donald Devine saying, again, that OPM did not have the aority to implement the new two-level performance system. Bowsher concluded:

"Given our opinion in the matter, we must advise that we woulrably disposed toward allowing any claim presented to us for failure by an agency to duly grant a within-grade increase despite a performancg which would constitute an 'acceptable level of competence' for an earlier step increase."