Here’s some good news for the federal family to start the New Year: at long last, the 3-year pay freeze has started to thaw!
For the first time in over 36 months – or more than 1,000 days -- hard-working and loyal federal employees will receive a scant 1% pay raise in Fiscal Year 2014.
As the Washington Post reports:
- “President Obama issued an executive order two days before Christmas to implement the change at the start of the new year, following up on a plan he laid out in his 2014 budget proposal and in an August letter to lawmakers.”
While something is certainly better than nothing 1% is far from fair.
Fighting for Fair Pay
Unfortunately, a 1% pay hike is not nearly enough to show a minimal level of respect and gratitude to the federal family, not to mention correcting the persistent problem of fundamental fairness for federal salaries.
Lest America forget that millions of feds -- accounting for middle class working families nationwide -- have been forced to face the following for the past three years:
- A limp-to-lackluster national economy,
- Weeks of unpaid mandatory furloughs,
- Sequestration (indiscriminate budget cuts across-the-board gov-wide), and
- Cuts in benefits and jumps in health care premiums, etc.
As Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in Senate history, said in a statement:
- “This long-overdue modest pay raise for federal-government employees is a good step in recognizing the value of federal workers. They have been the targets of unending attacks. They’ve been furloughed, laid off and locked out through no fault of their own.I believe federal employees should never be scapegoats in fights over deficit reduction.”
Public-Private Sector Pay Gap
Then there’s the wholly separate issue of whether feds are paid on par with their private sector counterparts for doing the same or similar work.
As I previously wrote here in November 2012, federal salary is more about principles than pay:
- “Feds don't work in government to get rich. It's not about pay, but principles. First and foremost, the principle of dedicated public service to America.”
- “Yet public recognition and respect for feds has been in short supply. Rather than being viewed positively by the public, feds are often vilified by politicians, the news media and private industry -- all of which drives negative public perceptions of government.”
I also noted that white collar feds are paid a whopping 35% less than their private sector equivalents, according to comprehensive data and recommendations by the Federal Salary Council.
And while no fed expects anything near that figure, the universal concept of basic pay fairness cannot be ignored.
As Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), recently stated: “It is time to get the federal pay process working as it should.”
Looking Ahead to FY 2015
Let’s hope that the current pay thaw is merely the start of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end, to retroactively melt the 3-year cumulative pay freeze via future pay hikes.
To accomplish this goal, I recommend the following:
- President Obama should ask Congress for a 5% federal pay increase in his forthcoming FY 2015 budget request, and
- Federal employee unions, other stakeholders and friends of feds in Congress should push hard for a minimum 5% pay hike for the next fiscal year (which begins October 2014), and
- If a 5% federal pay increase is not possible then bargain down to a least 3%.
Fighting for fair pay to the federal family is the least that can be done to help feds dig out from the financially harmful 3-year pay freeze and furloughs.
Is basic pay fairness too much to ask for federal civil servants who dedicate their careers and lives to America?
Let’s hope not.
* All views and opinions are those of the author only