A move by the Bush administration to hold the 2004 civil
service pay raise to an average 2 percent drew fire from union
officials and a key House leader Thursday.
“This is really discouraging,” said John Gage, newly elected
president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
“I've been getting calls from people all day who just feel
In an Aug.
27 letter to congressional leaders, the president said he
would grant white-collar federal employees a 1.5 percent
across-the-board pay increase and the remaining 0.5 percent would
cover locality-based pay raises. Bush's pay raise proposal, first
pitched in his 2004 budget proposal, falls below the 2.7
percent raise set by the formula used to determine annual civil
service pay raises. Bush said a larger raise “would threaten our
efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary
spending or federal employment to stay within budget.”
“We're not the enemy,” Gage said. “We see ourselves as a
valuable asset to the American people.”
The 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA), which
established the civil service pay raise formula, was designed to
close the gap between federal and private sector salaries, but
FEPCA has never been fully implemented, which makes the 2004 pay
raise proposal that much more distasteful, union leaders said.
“If FEPCA had been appropriately implemented in past years, the
gap that exists today would not exist, and then maybe there would
be a different conversation about this budget and this pay raise,
but that's not the case,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the
National Treasury Employees Union. “Our request is not for the
full closure of the gap, which we understand they could not and
would never do budget-wise, but there is no reason they could not
do a 4.1 percent pay raise as part of the budget process. It's the
right thing to do.”
Under the Bush proposal, managers would use money in a $500
million fund to give some employees larger raises based on their
performance. House leaders approved
an amendment creating the fund in the fiscal 2004 Defense
“Providing higher pay for employees whose exceptional
performance is critical to the achievement of the agency mission
is preferable to spreading limited dollars across-the-board to all
employees regardless of their individual performance or
contribution,” the president wrote.
But the 2 percent pay raise portion of the Bush proposal is
likely to fall flat given the bipartisan congressional support for
military-civilian pay parity. Last month the House Appropriations
Committee approved an
amendment to the fiscal 2004 Transportation and Treasury
appropriations bill that would give federal employees the same
4.1 percent pay increase that military employees get in 2004. A
spokesman for the House Government Reform Committee said Chairman
Tom Davis, R-Va., would push for the larger pay raise.
“This is one area where Chairman Davis differs with the
administration, based on his long support of pay parity for
civilian and military employees,” said spokesman David Marin. “At
the end of the day, he will once again help lead the way in
ensuring that all federal employees receive the same pay hike.
It's the fair thing to do, and thankfully for the employees, the
decision really rests with Congress.”
Kelley said she will continue to work with Davis and other
congressional leaders to ensure that federal employees get a 4.1
percent pay raise next year.
“While this is not unexpected, I think this is not just
inappropriate, it's really inexcusable when you look at all at the
other actions of this administration,” she said. “This was an
opportunity for the president to send, for a change, the message
that federal employees are respected, valued and deserve fair and
equitable pay, and he didn't take that opportunity. The fact that
the president did this is not the end of the conversation. The
final decision will be made by Congress in the appropriations
process and hopefully, in spite of the president's actions, the
Congress will do the right thing,” she said.