Free E-mail Newsletters    About Us    Contact Us    Index   
   Advanced Search
GovExec HomePay and BenefitsManagementHomeland SecurityDefenseE-GovernmentPer Diems and TravelJobs and CareersProcurementA-76 and OutsourcingBill TrackerEventsCalendarMailbagSubscribe

  Daily Briefing  
August 28, 2003

Unions, House leader blast Bush's proposed 2 percent federal pay raise

By Tanya N. Ballard

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 demoralized.”

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 authorization bill.

“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.

E-mail this story to a friend
Printer Friendly version
See readers' comments/ Add your own Mailbag

  President Bush's Aug. 27 letter on 2004 pay raise

  • President moves to limit 2004 federal pay raise   (08/27/03)
  • Poor performers will not fare well under GAO personnel reform plan   (07/16/03)
  • Appointee bonuses topped $1 million in 2002   (07/11/03)
  • House passes pay-for-performance measure   (05/23/03)
  • Federal employees receive 1 percent locality pay for 2003   (03/24/03)

  • [ Home | Pay & Benefits | Management | Homeland Security | Defense | E-Government | Per Diems & Travel | Jobs & Careers | Procurement | A-76 & Outsourcing ]