A set of proposals that could restructure the federal pay system, make pay raises for government employees less automatic and more dependent on good performance and otherwise after the way the government decides how much to pay its workers was presented yesterday by a federal task force.
Among the options presented by the task force which is examining the management of the federal civil service system were some that would split the general schedule (GS) pay system to "account for the differences between a secretary, an accountant and a chemist" rather than lumping them all together in one grade. In the current system, the task force indicated, the secretary is likely to be overpaid and the chemist underpaid.
Task force officials emphasized that the options were not final recommendations.
The task force also suggested the government consider passing employees at locally prevailing rates so that a civil servant in Alabama would make less than his counterpart in New York City. Whitecollar workers currently are paid one uniform rate nationwide. (Federal blue-collar workers already are paid on a local rate basis.)
The task force's strongest emphasos went to a proposal that "the rapidly escalating" array of federal employee benefits (retirement pay, etc.) should be considered along with basic pay in setting pay levels; and that the government should consider setting up a central authority to control benefits. That responsibility is now splintered among various congressional committees.
The merit system intended to reward superior performance and penalize poor performance "is not working," the task force goes on, noting for example that less than 1 per cent of federal employees have pay increases withheld for poor performance. They offered ways of increasing management's use of pay as an incentive to improved performance.
The current pay system, which lumps clerical, technical, professional and adminstrative employees together, "appears to work against the objective" of making federal pay comparable to that of employees in private industry, the task force report said. It also notes "a growing reluctance of professional and managerial (federal) employees to move to highest areas of country" because of the uniform national pay sscale.
The options, therefore, include variations on the theme of splitting the general schedule: to separate clerical/technical workers from professional/managerial workers: to pay nationwide rates to some occupations, local rates to others in areas where the cost of living is high.
The general thrust of these and other options presented yesterday is "to make the total (federal pay) system more like the private sector system" where raises are not automatic, promotions appear to be less rapid, and there is a trade-off between benefits and pay to create a balance," according to Civil Service Chairman Alan K. Campbell, who heads the President's federal personnel management project, of which the pay task force is one part.
By law, federal salaries are supposed to be equal to those paid for the same work in private industry. Currently, that rate of pay is determined through a complex and controversial process that does not consider benefits at all.
Campbell said that he personally favors a move to using total compensation (pay plus benefits) for determining comparability with the private sector.
"Right now, we don't even know how the total compensation of federal employees compares with the private sector," he said. "It may be higher, may be lower."
Campbell said he also favors more effective use of pay "as a management tool, a reward" for good work.
Yesterday's option paper was the last of six complicated papers offered for comment by the federal personnel management project in less than six weeks. Leaning heavily toward increasing the flexibility of federal managers, the papers cover a broad spectrum of problems in the way the government hires, fires, promotes and generally manages its workers.
The final option paper was sent out to more than 1,000 individuals and organizations for comment before the end of this month. William D. Conley of Honeywell, Inc., led the task force that prepared it.
The reorganization team hopes to get its final recommendation on all six option papers to the President in November, a spokesman said, and get a package to Congress in January.
Among other options presented were:
The inclusion of state and local government employees in the survey of private industry used to determine federal pay comparability with non-federal employers. Those employees are excluded by present law, but task force spokesmen noted that their numbers have grown so that they now make up 22 per cent of all white-collar workers in the country and therefore could be an important factor. Federal employee unions have opposed the idea, the task force says, apparently because they believe it would depress federal salaries.
A variety of possible improvements in the vital system of describing a particular job and assigning its a grade or salary. The task force says that a "preliminary estimate" indicated that about 8 per cent of all general schedule jobs may be over-gradded," that some classification standards are outdated and that some occupations lack standards completely.
The task force also raises the question of what, if anything, to do about the fact the blue-collar workers, under a different pay system, have for several years received larger pay increases than white-collar workers, disrupting traditional pay relationships between the two categories." They present no specific options but note the legislation has been proposed to correct the "inconsistencies" in thelaw that cause this.