People who want to swap the government's Maine-to-Florida national wage scale for area-by-area matchups with local industry have most of the numbers on their side. But while many government workers are convinced that they are at the bottom of the pay scale, many nonfederal employees consider Uncle Sam the paycheck king.
Your point of view probably depends on your job and where you live.
A low or even mid-level federal job in San Francisco, New York or Washington can mean a lifetime of counting pennies. But the same job and salary in Tampa; Oshkosh, Wis.; or even Atlanta might be a plum.
The pay issue will be decided here. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee begins its pay bill markup tomorrow. But because many voters live in places like Tampa, Oshkosh and Atlanta, the selling of pay legislation will have its ups and downs this summer.
Surveys (all done by government) show that pay for federal employees in selected cities trails industry pay by more than 25 percent. (However, as many readers point out, none of the matchups compare benefits such as retirement, vacations and holidays.)
A recent General Accounting Office study showed that government pays its clerical, administrative and technical employees 21.9 percent less than industry.
Baltimore federal workers are 22 percent behind, the survey says, and most in Richmond lagged 15 percent behind industry during 1987-88, when the matchups were made.
In 90 percent of the towns and jobs surveyed by the General Accounting Office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics or other organizations, industry pays more than the government for similar jobs. But in many of the cities where the government may be ahead, the data merely show a Code N/M. That means "no match" could be made between private sector and federal pay.
The high number of N/Ms in the pay comparison charts makes some nonfederal workers and employers want to ask for a new ruler that would measure the situation in more cities.
In a few of the cities where pay matchups were made, government paid top dollar. That could be a factor when it comes time to sell multibillion-dollar pay legislation to the public. Tuesday we listed the cities where federal workers are behind. Today the places where the private pay scale trails the government's:
General Accounting's Atlanta study showed private sector file clerks making nearly 8 percent (or $862 a year) less than government file clerks.
In Appleton-Oshkosh, federal secretaries are paid 6 percent more than private sector counterparts. They get 16.8 percent more in Gary-Hammond, Ind.; about 2 percent more in Memphis; 9 percent more in Worcester, Mass.; and about 14 percent more than private sector workers in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
U.S. typists trailed industry in most surveyed cities. But they receive 22 percent (or about $3,000 a year) more in Tampa-St. Petersburg, and presumably more in some of the cities not measured.
In Dallas, federal computer operators are paid $1,300 a year, or 8 percent, more than industry counterparts. The gap is $2,700 a year, or about 17 percent, in Monmouth-Ocean, N.J.