August 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm #108477
In a recent statement defending the compensation and benefits provided to Federal employees, OPM noted that "working for the Federal government is about more than money ... We should be applauding these hard-working civil servants - not mischaracterizing them."
OPM Director John Berry emphasized that recent claims are unjust and unfair about "the disparity between the average salary of federal employees and the rest of America continu(ing) to grow wider each year." OPM noted that today's "Federal workforce is highly specialized ... data clearly show that many of these highly specialized workers - doctors, nurses, cybersecurity professionals - are paid less than their private sector counterparts and are making a significant sacrifice in pay to serve their neighbors." To that end, OPM will launch a Pay Gap Study this Fall to determine if federal jobs continue to realize a 22 percent earnings shortfall with their private sector counterparts on a job-for-job basis.
I applaud OPM for defending our compensation and benefits! On a personal note, I had to muster a lot of courage and determination to give up a very nice paying career in the private sector to come work for the Feds. I did it because it was the right thing for me to do! My agency's mission allows us to return so much more in Federal loans and grants to taxpayers than the average American will ever give us credit for doing but I wanted to be a part of this mission ... and I'm happy to make the trade-off!
I think every new hire should walk a mile in our shoes. Perhaps it would do Americans some good to work at least 5 years in the private sector, build up a nice income and a lucrative career, and then be required to come to work for the Feds for at least 5 years and give that all up. Perhaps more Americans would understand and appreciate just how much of a trade-off we make! They'd find out how much Fed employees contribute to have the health care benefits afforded to us; they'd find out just how difficult it is to deal with angry taxpayers who want us to deliver the impossible ... and that want it now ... because "they pay our salaries"; they'd learn how dedicated Fed employees are to our Agency missions and just how much we want to give back to every taxpayer, despite the bureaucracies we have to suffer from Washington (just like everyone else)! Maybe then Americans would better appreciate what Fed employment is really about!
August 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm #108487
I've tried to tell non-Fed friends that whether you want small government or big government, you should want great government... that requires the best people and competitive pay. I'm paid well, and I appreciate it. The best thing I can do is respect the unique position I'm in (having tax payers as my employers) and do my best to remember that at all times.
August 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm #108485
I'm speaking from a Canadian vantage point, but I imagine the same thing holds true south of the border: public service wages and pay scales are compressed. The people higher up make less than their private sector counterparts, but the people at the bottom generally make more than their private sector counterparts, especially when you factor in benefits. The complaints about how much public servants are "overpaid" generally come from those working in the lower end of the spectrum, not the higher. Naturally, you would expect people working for a bit more than minimum wage for an employer that cannot promise benefits or even long-term job stability, to wonder just what the heck it is that makes us so special that we deserve more than them.
So whenever I see such complaints about pubic service wages, and especially complaints about how hard it is to get those jobs, or about special requirements needed to get one (such as being bilingual, in the case of Canada), I generally take this as a sign of how desirable those jobs are to a great many people.
Are there people who earn more than they should, or people who earn less than they should? Sure. That's true both inside government and outside.
I think it is also fair to say that a great many people have precious little idea about what government does or why it needs to do what it does. There are some jobs they see on a first hand basis, like border guards, folks at the unemployment office, or regulatory/enforcement officers of varius kinds, or emergency service and disaster-relief people. But 90% of government is effectively hidden from the public. As a consequence, they have little idea of what the value of those jobs are, and if they can't imagine the value, then they certain can't imagine how justified the wages are.
August 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm #108483
Customer service means more to most Fed employees than I've found in the private sector. Absent the Southwest Airline employer-types, many companies put their business and profits before their people; that means they're creating a counterproductive culture where employees work less on customer service and more on how to get the most they can get out of their employers. Most Fed employees were initially motivated to serve our country in some way and they started the Fed careers wanting to give the type of customer service they'd expect to receive themselves. Somewhere along the way, some may lose sight of their initial motivations but that doesn't mean we don't work hard, for less pay, and put up with a lot more at the hands of every critic in this country because they think we don't! Thanks, Kevin, for pointing out that we all want great government! We're all in this together, whether we work for the Feds or we want to get services from them!
August 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm #108481
Excellent point about the people who don't see the work cannot see how the wages are justified. While I know the my job is not visible (Federal HR), I know it's valuable.
August 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm #108479
How can OPM do a Pay Gap Study when they lack the tools and expertise to do it? OPM's compensation experts have all died, retired or gone to the agencies and departments to work where they are appreciated. Then there are the agency job descriptions that must be the foundation of any Pay Gap Study. They are either too old and out-of-date or are faked and fabricated to justify a grade in a totally broken and increasing irrelevant position clasification system.
In the last year, OPM has published so many significant #1 priorities, it's hard to even react to this News Flash. Let's see, OPM is going to fix retirement processing that has been broken for two decades and has just had its third contractual fix cancelled. OPM is going to fix the hiring process that is established in law but has not submitted any significant proposed legislation. OPM is going to do a Pay Gap Study, while they admit that the federal pay and classification systems are broken beyond repair.
It's kind of like the MAJOR effort to totally redo an unbroken and perfectly functioning USAJOBS. When you can't fix what's really broken, you demonstrate action by doing something that you can do, and studying everything else.
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