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Officials defending federal pay levels

By Ed O'Keefe

By The Post's Lisa Rein:

Election season and a bad economy are making roadkill out of federal workers’ salaries. Some newspapers, Republicans and conservative think tanks are inveighing against feds they say are making a killing compared with their counterparts in the private sector.

The government is fighting back. After USA Today last week published another in a series of stories on high compensation for federal workers, top officials from the Office of Personnel Management dialed up the press and made the opposite case.

Federal employees made on average 22 percent less than workers in similar private-sector jobs, they said. USA Today, meanwhile, reported that federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that when federal and non-federal occupations are compared by level of work in different regions of the country, the private sector makes more.

"I’ve been reading a lot about federal pay lately," said Sheldon Friedman, a salary expert who heads a committee that reviews labor relations issues of blue-collar government workers.

"I’ve found a lot of it very misleading." The comparisons are "wildly inaccurate," he said. "The workforce of the federal government is very different."

Friedman and his colleagues at the personnel agency, led by Director John Berry, say critics are not making fair comparisons. The data they’re using, from a jobs report released this month by the Bureau of Economic Affairs, include low-skill restaurant, retail and other service jobs that the government doesn’t have. It’s like comparing the pay of a sales clerk at Wal-Mart to that of a NASA scientist, in other words.

"If you average in some of the largest job categories in the private sector, it will make the private numbers look low," Friedman said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 16, 2010; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Comments

A little clarification please: "Federal employees made on average 22 percent less than workers in similar private-sector jobs, they [OPM] said."

Does "made on average" refer to money or to money plus benefits? With low interest rates, a pension is more valuable to a retiree than the typical IRA a middle-income person could save.

Pensions in the private world are apparently very rare. Private pensions with a COLA are even more rare.

Posted by: ad9inaz | August 16, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

More excuses for the rape of America's future. If the bureaucrats think they're so underpaid, try getting a real job.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 16, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I can answer my own question. Federal News Radio reported: "Friedman said these comparisons only are for salary and not benefits because data doesn't exist to compare federal and non-federal benefits."

Posted by: ad9inaz | August 16, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

People who complain about federal pay and benefits often refer to the mythical federal pension. As a federal employee, I'd love to learn more about this fantastic sum of money. I keep looking at my government 401K retirement plan, rising and falling just like a private industry 401K or a typical IRA, and getting depressed.

Posted by: thingsfallapart | August 16, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Why do we keep going in circles with this topic? OPM and OMB have proven over and over that there is no proper comparision to private and public salaries. We don't have bartenders, waitresses and so many other occupations that don't exist in the fed. Most agencies have done away with secretaries. If you demand a comparison, then do it job profession, to job profession or STFU! I am a professional accountant and my counter-part accountants in the private sector make 3 or 4 times more than I make... all have wealthy pensions and many have buy-in options along with a health plan that makes mine look like I am on welfare! Engineers, scientists, attorneys, program mangers, etc etc... all require high level eduation; but their couterparts on the private sector are making alot more when compared to each other.


@ ad9inaz. It is obvious why you are not a govt employee! The private sector professionals have an awesome 401k and cost of living. Get you facts straight or STFU!

Posted by: darbyohara | August 16, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Why do we keep going in circles with this topic? OPM and OMB have proven over and over that there is no proper comparision to private and public salaries. We don't have bartenders, waitresses and so many other occupations that don't exist in the fed. Most agencies have done away with secretaries. If you demand a comparison, then do it job profession, to job profession or STFU! I am a professional accountant and my counter-part accountants in the private sector make 3 or 4 times more than I make... all have wealthy pensions and many have buy-in options along with a health plan that makes mine look like I am on welfare! Engineers, scientists, attorneys, program mangers, etc etc... all require high level eduation; but their counterparts on the private sector are making alot more when compared to each other.


@ ad9inaz. It is obvious why you are not a govt employee! The private sector professionals have an awesome 401k and cost of living. Get you facts straight or STFU!

Posted by: darbyohara | August 16, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"I am a professional accountant and my counter-part accountants in the private sector make 3 or 4 times more than I make"

They clearly are better at their jobs than you are. At a minimum, they probably don't spend their days trolling the internet to whine about how somebody hurt their precious feelings.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 16, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

@ ad9inaz. It is obvious why you are not a govt employee! The private sector professionals have an awesome 401k and cost of living. Get you facts straight or STFU!

I quit the Govt. after 26 years and went to work for a Govt. contractor for more money. Fifteen years later I retired at 62 and got pensions from both. Since I retired, the company pension has changed to an 401K-only for new hires. Since I retired, my Fed pension has gone up with several COLAs; the private pension is the same as the day I left.

I agree with those who say compare job v. job; not overall salaries. I was a lawyer, and private pay was better for me when I left the Govt. My overall retirement would have been better if I stayed. My sanity would have been ruined if I stayed.

The true test of Govt. pay and benefits is the marketplace. If good people are scrambling to get in, pay and benefits are good enough for new hires. If good experienced people are leaving, pay and benefits are not good enough at that level.

Posted by: ad9inaz | August 16, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The largest single unfunded liability is not the combination of medicare and social security but FEDERAL PENSIONS and FEDERAL HEALTHCARE (Dallas Federal Reserve May 25, 2009)

99 trillion dollars.

Our representatives will not think of anyone but themselves!

Posted by: bocatty | August 16, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

"My sanity would have been ruined if I stayed."

Destroyed sanity would have guaranteed you a promotion!

Posted by: jiji1 | August 17, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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