Pay Parity May Not Get Far With Congress

“Pay parity” is a mantra federal civilian employees have long chanted to great effect.

For most of the last 20 years, they have used the power of positive thinking, not to mention good hard lobbying, to persuade Congress they should get the same pay raise rate as members of the military.

But at this point, Frankie and Flo Fed don’t appear to have much more than a hope and prayer that Congress will give them the 3.4 percent increase the men and women in uniform are slated to get.

More likely for civilians is the 2.9 percent cost-of-living increase the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last week. That’s certainly better than the 2 percent raise President Obama proposed in his budget for fiscal 2010. And because the House appropriations bill is silent on civilian pay, there currently is no vehicle Frankie and Flo can ride to the land of 3.4.

That doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying.

“At this point we’re still fighting for pay parity,” said Beth Moten, legislative director for the American Federation of Government Employees. “I believe that the cause is far from lost. If you get to 2.9 it’s only a half point to 3.4.”

They aren’t fighting alone.

Last month, two main House members on federal workforce issues urged the House Appropriations Committee to bump salaries to the higher level.

Democratic Reps. Ed Towns, of New York, and Stephen M. Lynch, of Massachusetts, are chairmen of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its subcommittee on federal workforce, postal service and District of Columbia, respectively. They deal with a variety of topics affecting the federal workplace, but their panels don’t set federal salaries.

So they urged the committee that does to maintain pay parity.

“Federal employees work side-by-side with military personnel both here and abroad, and deserve to be recognized for their extraordinary efforts,” said their letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders. “Civilian employees serving at DOD [Defense Department], FBI, State, DHS [Homeland Security Department], and at many other agencies support the men and women of the armed forces and work tirelessly to ensure the security of our nation.

“Pay parity has long enjoyed bipartisan and bicameral support, and we ask your Committee to continue this tradition.”

By Marcia Davis  |  July 14, 2009; 4:52 PM ET  | Category:  Pay
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