Capitol Fall

A coalition of unions and other organizations representing federal employees is asking Congress to allow a 0.5 percent federal employee raise set for April to take effect.

The 31-member Federal-Postal Coalition on Monday sent a letter to House members urging them to vote against a bill to keep salary rates frozen through the rest of the calendar year, a measure that could reach the House floor late this week. The House Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday afternoon that could clear the bill for floor voting.

“Make no mistake; this vote is about how members of Congress reward hardworking middle-class public servants who take care of our veterans, who guard our borders, who maintain our military’s hardware, who take criminals off our streets and keep them behind bars and who provide the intelligence needed to thwart terrorism,” the letter says. “After a two-plus year pay freeze, they have earned, at least, the modest 0.5 percent pay increase proposed by the President.”

Federal employee salary rates have not been increased since January 2010, although many individuals have continued to receive raises on promotion, for performance, or on moving up the steps of their pay grades, in occupations using such systems.

The freeze originally was enacted to cover only 2011 and 2012 but was extended through late March under a temporary budget measure set to expire late next month. Under an executive order, the 0.5 percent raise will take effect in April unless it is prevented.

The House last year voted several times to extend the pay rate freeze through all of 2013 and beyond but the Senate never took up those measures nor formally took any other position on a 2013 pay raise.

In its letter, the coalition noted that pay for members of Congress already has been frozen for the remainder of this year, due to a provision in the “fiscal cliff” law enacted in early January. It also pointed to the lost income to employees of the salary rate freeze to date and the increase in retirement contributions now required of those hired into the government starting this year.

“Continuing the pay freeze not only affects financially the hardworking middle-class individuals who make up the federal workforce, it threatens to weaken the quality of our federal civil service,” the letter adds. “The demands of our government in a constantly modernizing world with increasingly complex threats call for highly-skilled employees who require appropriate compensation. The modest savings that H.R. 273 is trying to squeeze out of the federal workforce today may cost Americans much more tomorrow.”