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Big changes soon for federal employees

By Ed O'Keefe

All that's missing is President Obama's signature before long-sought workplace changes affecting current and former federal employees take effect.

The Defense authorization bill passed by the Senate Thursday night included alternations to benefits and practices first announced and celebrated roughly two weeks ago. Perhaps the biggest change is that members of the Federal Employees Retirement System will be able to have unused sick leave credited to them when they retire. The provision will be phased in over the next four years.

The legislation passed by a 68 to 29 vote.

“This is a major step forward to helping ensure that FERS-covered employees will soon be on par with their counterparts under the Civil Service Retirement System, who have long been able to credit their sick leave toward their annuity,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement.

Members of the Civil Service Retirement System will also be able to start working part-time toward the end of their career without jeopardizing their pensions. Agencies will be able to hire back federal retirees under certain conditions and these workers will be able to receive a new salary while keeping their pension.

The bill's passage also means an end to the National Security Personnel System and a suspension of the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System. Both are controversial pay-for-performance systems used by Defense Department and intelligence personnel.

"The Senate's decision to move this critical legislation to the President's desk marks a major victory for members of the civil service and American taxpayers alike," Federal Managers Association National President Darryl Perkinson said.

Members of the armed forces also scored some pay and benefits victories. Those that wear the uniform will get 3.4 percent pay raise in 2010, higher than Obama's proposed pay jump. It will also get easier for military voters to vote in elections, thanks to a bipartisan measure cosponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), and John Cornyn (R-Texas). Their provision requires states to provide military voters with ballots no later than 45 days before an election. States must also provide ballots electronically. Lawmakers also approved more funding to the Pentagon's Federal Voting Assistance Program, which provides election information and assistance to military voters.

“It is the least we can do for our troops to make sure their votes get counted when they are serving overseas,” Schumer said. “This bill will remove the barriers that too often conspire to disenfranchise our military men and women."

The White House could not immediately say when the president will sign the authorization bill.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 23, 2009; 11:56 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Repairs begin at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Comments

The changes sound good. Some editorial comments:

Are you sure you meant to use "alternations" -- meaning we started one way, went another way, and then back to the first way? If so, I don't see how this is a step forward.

"Members of the Civil Service Retirement System will also be able to work start working . . ."

Posted by: rosepetals64 | October 23, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Wow-credit for unused sick leave. You don't see that in the private sector. And what's this pay for performance. That's out. Can't have that in a union minded govt. Federal employment is really the good life. Wonder who's going to pay for all these perks? Oh yeah the taxpayer.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | October 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Allowing FERS personnel to use their unused sick leave for retirement calucations makes some sense as the system is now configured. Fed employees under FERS get about 13 sick days a year. Most non-Government employees get about 4 or 5 a year and many get none. I know federal workers who have massive sick leave balances because the just don't get sick or come into work even if they are sick so they can bank their sick hours. If you reduced the amount of equivalent sick days awarded each year to 5 or 6 and only allowed a carry-over of 2 years' worth (you lose it if you don't use it -- just like leave). The Government can save quite a bit in personnel costs, and people would still get the sick leave they actually need.

Posted by: rmg4369 | October 23, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

federal employees also don't get lavish bonuses or salaries their private sector counterparts receive.

Posted by: fedemp1 | October 23, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

@rmg4369...

your proposal only works if you stay healthy and don't have any accidents ... my supervisor was just in a car accident and will be out for 6 weeks (30+ sick days)... she has sick leave stored up and can use it now... your plan would screw her and any other unlucky folks.

Try again, no sale on your idea ... oh, and btw, in my job series I make from 30-60% less (or more) than many private sector types ... that is part of the trade off when I entered federal service 22 yrs. ago, if you strip sick leave down to 5-6 days they you better bump salaries up to true comparability w/ the private sector, which has thus far been avoided.

Posted by: fendertweed | October 23, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

thanks to the Aloha Senator Akaka for allowing FERS people to credit sick leave toward retirement. i for one will leave sooner because of this so mahalo, Senator.

Posted by: rufkd | October 23, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The changes to FERS are all fine and dandy. But, Ed, I would really have liked to seen, in your limited space, if those changes in the legislation were the ones initially proposed by Jim Moran. That is, the credit given for unused sick leave is only a FRACTION of the actual value.

Whereas, CSRS employees get a payout of 1:1 for each hour of unused sick leave, the proposal for FERS employees was something like 1:4. How did that come out in the wash?

Are we still going to be more motivated to squander our sick leave, than to save it?

Posted by: trambusto | October 23, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

It's ok, Ed. I found it:

Until Dec. 31, 2013, employees would receive 50 percent credit for unused sick time; they would receive full credit beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.

www.govexec.com

Posted by: trambusto | October 23, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow-credit for unused sick leave. You don't see that in the private sector. And what's this pay for performance. That's out. Can't have that in a union minded govt. Federal employment is really the good life. Wonder who's going to pay for all these perks? Oh yeah the taxpayer.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | October 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

************

If you really are that envious of federal employees and their benefits, you are just as welcome to apply and interview for the same positions we do.

Please visit www.usajobs.opm.gov.

Posted by: trambusto | October 23, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Federal workers are expected to use their sick leave as short-term disability or for maternity leave. They also use it for bereavement and family emergencies.

Just because you accrue 13 days a year doesn't mean you use 13 days a year. Women must save up to have a baby, and any worker approaching mid-life should have a healthy balance in case of a surgery or accident.

Posted by: AxelDC | October 23, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Ed O'Keefe wrote: Perhaps the biggest change is that members of the Federal Employees Retirement System will be able to have unused sick leave credited to them when they retire. The provision will be phased in over the next four years.

What exactly does that last sentence mean? I'm FERS and due to retire at the end of the year. Does that mean that I'm screwed, or does it mean that eventually, say in 3-4 years, my annuity will be adjusted accordingly?

Posted by: eomcmars | October 23, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

jschmidt2 said: "... what's this pay for performance. That's out. Can't have that in a union minded govt. Federal employment is really the good life. Wonder who's going to pay for all these perks? Oh yeah the taxpayer." That deserves a considered response:

Having worked under NSPS and actually gained a modest amount of money from it, I found it to be a pain in the tail for the worker-bees and a colossal agony for supervisors. As a taxpayer who has seen "up close and personal" the huge amount of money and effort squandered creating, implementing and administering NSPS, the whole experience simply outrages me. I'm delighted that Congress had the courage to execute this monstrosity, and further hope they will greet any future attempt to implement "pay for performance" with all the skepticism they can muster. It is a managerial concept that has, beyond any shadow of doubt, proven its inherent worthlessness.

Posted by: HavHest | October 23, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Why are Federal employees unionized? Why can't we get efficient workers that can be fired at market rates?

If they're going to take everything over they're going to have to create a real workforce or they could just continue to waste our money and our time.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | October 23, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I really get sick of people bashing government employees (i.e "create a real workforce"). With continued reduction in funding and expansion of public demands without expansion of the workforce everyone is working harder to fill the shoes of people who retire or otherwise leave and don't get replaced. But people who don't know and don't care continue to talk about government waste and imply that employees must just collect a paycheck and sit around the water cooler all day doing nothing.

Posted by: taxing | October 23, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Your "Federal" workforce collects no bonuses, was created to be paid fairly to avoid cronyism, and employs the disabled where no corporation seems to find that "they 'fit' the corporate culture."

The thin blue line between democracy and freedom versus anarchy and plutocracy rests in the IRS, FBI, DEA, etc.

Even your food is safer, where we find state government cutbacks led to many of the food poisonings and deaths.

Spare us the lies about "efficiency" in the private sector.

Government contractors cost TWICE as much, and the innumerable scandals indicate that much more is lost than is gained in "savings' and "efficiency."

Odd, but somehow a private for-profit corporation costs more.

Oh, it's that personal profit thing again.

Privatizing profit and socializing risk is what got us in this mess.

And who is working us out of it, while fighting two wars alongside the military and preventing terrorist attacks? Yeah. The Feds.

Posted by: georgieporgie2 | October 23, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

"Those that wear the uniform will get 3.4 percent pay raise in 2010, higher than Obama's proposed pay jump."

Any idea what the pay raise will be for civilians? In the past, military and civilian employees got the same raise. I've heard that the raise for civilians won't be anywhere near what the military will be getting. Interestingly enough, many of the civilians work side by side with the military personnel and face the same risks, yet the Obama administration has seen fit to treat them as second class citizens. Any idea how far behind the second class citizens will be in 2010? Thanks for any information you can provide.

Posted by: MyPostID8 | October 23, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Allowing FERS employees to credit their accrued sick leave towards their retirement is long overdue. Strangely enough it took a pretty long time for CSRS employees to get that same benefit. You would think that the lesson was learned a long time ago.
I am a retired CSRS employee and from my perspective the thing that has long been overdue was a review of the things the goverment does that it should not be doing at all. The last agency I worked for was a sunset organization within DOI that should have been gone several years ago. Instead it grew from 200+ employees to over 700 employees plus contractors, and nothing has been improved or provided any more benefit to the taxpayer and I would say to the people the organization is supposed to benefit.

Posted by: cdbrinker | October 23, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Hiring back retired employees is a throwback to the god 'l boy system and deprives new much need jobs to others.

Posted by: ernestoman | October 24, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

This does not seem to jive with what I know to be the case having worked as a contractor at the EPA for 14 years and gotten to know many of the ins and outs of the federal system. Region 5, the largest region of the 10, have a "sick leave bank, whereby any federal employee can donate "x" amount of sick leave hours to be used by another fed. employee who becomes ill and has not accrued a lot of sick leave. They are allowed to accrue 240 hours of vacation time, and many of them do. Anything over this amount is automatically taken away. This vacation accrual is based on the years of service and if, at the time you retire, and you have all this time, it is added to your retirement package. The sick leave is far more than 5 or 6 days per year. It is accrued every pay period based on the number of hours worked. Trust me, it is far more than has been stated. And, if I'm not mistaken, this time, too, is either factored into the retirement pkg. or a separate check is issued for the days accumulated.

For those fed employees who think they could get the same salary and benefit pkg. in the "real world" have never worked in the "real world" unless they are not the typical over-paid, underworked pencil pushers.

I have great respect for the engineers, chemical engineers, organic chemists and all the other truly educated evironmental professionals I had known for those 14 years. Show me a secretary, with limited ability, earning in excess of $45-50,000/year with all these benefits, who cannot be fired after one year of employment, unionized, who has ever lost his/her job for incompetance. I'll issue an apology.

Posted by: marine2211 | October 24, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Federal employee. I respect the diverse and often complex work we do. As a FERS employee, I value my benefits too, but I understood on entry that sick leave was for being sick (or authorized uses) and annual leave was use or lose. On principle, I would sooner have policy makers get rid of annual leave use or lose than make sick leave bankable. As practicable politics, banking sick leave makes some sense to curb sick leave abuse, but they could have gotten that done with a 50% bank, and probably should have done so given our fiscal situation.

Posted by: finserra | October 24, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Glad NSPS is dead and that FERS sick leave will count toward retirement credit. I have served in the military, retired and now in Civil Service. And I state without reservation thatmilitary members deserve a bigger pay raise than civil service. When the time comes, they have to put their life on the line. The Civil Service, much less so.

Posted by: topjag1 | October 24, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I retired in 2006 at age of 51 from a federal law enforcement career of almost 26 years. A few months ago I applied for several federal jobs but received not even a letter of acknowledgement. I called the USAID to inquiry about a job posting, the USAID staffer point blank told me that due to my age, I should reconsider applying. I took the hint. Guess at age 53 I am too old to apply for a federal job after the U.S. government spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars training me to be a hardworking and honest federal employee.

Posted by: doctormiguel | October 25, 2009 5:34 AM | Report abuse

@ doctormiguel...

You have a age discrimination lawsuit, if you should decide to persue.

@ marine2211...

Typical DUMB marine!

@ ernestoman...

If you could learn to write and spell, you to could get a federal job too.

@ fallsmeadjc...

I just love to read stupid, and your post is nothing but pure stupid. I can only wish that you clowns posting negative stuff about federal workers will soon experience what life would be life without us... Be very f*****g careful of what you wish for dude!

Posted by: darbyohara | October 26, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

All of the changes to the Federal Government's Personnel System are good changes for all; including the taxpayer. The Federal government at one time had the lead...showing the private sector how to treat its employees; and it did this by example with a fair personnel system. With NSBS coming to its rightful conclusion, we now need to focus on legitimate civilian career paths. Over the past 8 years, military abused hiring and promotion systems for their own personal gain and in the process shortchanged government employees who had been in the system for years. Its now time to audit those actions and compensate employees for military abuses to cililian employee career tracks and compensate them for the abuse they took.

Posted by: RDangredo | October 26, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Wow-credit for unused sick leave. You don't see that in the private sector. And what's this pay for performance. That's out. Can't have that in a union minded govt. Federal employment is really the good life. Wonder who's going to pay for all these perks? Oh yeah the taxpayer.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | October 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

_________________________

I love your rational. Private industry workers get screwed so everybody should. As far as the pay for performance. Just look at the current crisis we are in to see its results. Included in the pay for performance plans were policies making it easier to fire employees results. Those who followed the party line were promoted and given major raises while those who tired to enforce the law were fired. That is why Madoff, Rubin, Mozilo, O'Neal and all of the rest of the crooks were able to destory this country. Bush rewarded the yes men and destoryed those who tried to enforce the law. So if you loose your job do to the economy you only have yourself to blame.

Posted by: whistleblower1 | October 26, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Our friend "marine" never worked for SSA evidently. They can and do fire people regularly, including a couple of Katrina evacuees in the recent past. About leave, the facts are: new hires get four hours each of sick and annual leave a pay period; at 3 years the annual leave goes to 6; at 15 years 8. And it sounds like a lot but a major illness can wipe out both balances very quickly. CSRS retirees get paid for unused annual leave but there is no money "package," just a check for the unused leave. Sick leave is added on and I've always considered it a better idea to get medical certification and USE it before retirement. We also have leave sharing, but this only allows donating annual leave for an employee with a validated need.

Posted by: BamaGrammame | October 28, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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