While federal civilian workers' pay is likely to be frozen, if not cut next year, the more than 145,000 foreign nationals who work at U.S. embassies and military installations abroad will receive pay raises averaging 8 percent.
The anomaly is the result of a variety of treaties and the Foreign Service Act of 1980, which specified that the wages of foreign nationals employed by civilian agencies overseas must be comparable to local wage scales for similar jobs.
Thus, wages for foreign nationals will increase from 4 to 13 percent in fiscal 1986, depending on the country. While the fiscal 1986 budget still is under debate, the White House and Senate Republicans have reached an agreement that would freeze the salaries of federal civilian employes. The salaries of military employes could rise by 2 percent, depending upon the final shape of the defense side of the budget.
Currently, about 62,000 foreign nationals work overseas for federal civilian agencies, according to the Office of Personnel Management. In addition, the Defense Department employs about 85,380 foreign nationals abroad.
Lawrence J. Korb, assistant secretary of defense for manpower, installations and logistics, said that the United States "gets a good deal" because the foreign nationals work for "way, way less than the men at the bases."
He said the average GS-4 civilian working for the Defense Department earns about $13,300, compared to the $9,600 a foreign national would earn for similar work in Japan, or $5,900 in South Korea.
Korb could not provide specifics because exchange rates change constantly, but said foreign nationals working in West Germany and France probably will get the biggest raises, estimated at near 13 percent, while employes in South Korea and Japan would get the smallest, probably as low as 4 percent.
"Our problem is that some countries require us to use their nationals," Korb said. "It's a problem because men assigned abroad generally have wives these days who want to work and not sit home. That limit on U.S. hires is causing some morale problems."
Michael A. West, a professional staff member with the House Armed Services Committee, said of the salary differences: "The arrangements, under treaty, are acceptable and beneficial to the United States . It seems to me, if we wanted to get into cutting the average pay raise, we would have to reexamine at least part of the treaties, and that raises the possible contention that we would reexamine other sections of the treaty. That could be unsettling."