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Panel to consider federal pay raises

By Lisa Rein and Eric Yoder

By The Post's Lisa Rein and Eric Yoder:

The government could fire its latest shot in the bitter, election-year debate over federal salaries when a panel tasked with recommending pay raises meets today.

The Federal Salary Council is likely to hear an annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on where the pay of federal workers stands in relation to private-sector salaries. Given that last year's numbers put federal pay an average of 22 percent behind the private sector, the new ones are likely to generate more controversy among Republicans.

Conservative think tanks and Republicans hoping to win back Congress next week have seized on federal salaries as symbols of overspending by the Obama administration. They say a public-private pay gap exists, but in the opposite direction, with the private sector lagging 22 percent behind the government.

The nine-member salary council is unknown to most outside the federal government --and many inside. But it has a powerful role in recommending salary adjustments for up to 70 percent of the country's 1.9 million federal workers who are paid under the General Schedule (Hourly employees and the Senior Executive Service are paid under a different system).

The presidentially appointed group of union officials, labor relations and government pay experts determines not just the average pay gap, but locality pay adjustments to the General Schedule, an add-on to salaries based on where jobs are located.

There are 31 regions. Locality pay is not based on the cost of living in different metropolitan areas, but the relative salaries of private-sector jobs. The council often hears requests from groups trying to shift jobs into higher-paying localities.

Officials with the Office of Personnel Management declined to release information on today's meeting.

John Berry, the government's personnel chief, has said his staff is studying ways to tweak the salary system, in part by taking into account shifts in the labor market: If accountants are in high demand they might be paid more; if there is little demand for administrative assistants maybe they should be paid less. But Berry has said that critics of government salaries are making false comparisons by comparing all public and private jobs. Since the government workforce is more skilled than the private one, comparing all jobs skews private-sector salaries down, he has said.

Congress has not enacted a pay raise for federal employees for 2011. A draft bill in the Senate would set the increase at 1.4 percent, as recommended by President Obama. The House has not taken a position. Congress most likely will deal with federal salaries as part of a general spending bill during the lame-duck session after Tuesday's elections.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Lisa Rein and Eric Yoder  | October 29, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Let loose of the purse strings. If you can finance a 10 year war with no end in sight; then you can pay federal employees a 3% raise.

Posted by: kirk2trek | October 29, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

It is true that critics of government salaries are making false comparisons by comparing all public and private jobs.

In private jobs, employees are held to performance standards, can be fired, and don't receive platinum-plated benefits.

In public jobs, employees can sleep at work.

It's like comparing apples and rotten apples.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 29, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

no raises for 3 years.

for once in your life, lead Obama.

Posted by: newagent99 | October 29, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm always amused by the comments and opinions that posit a magical private sector in which no lazy employee exists, all people work their hardest constantly, and no one is in a position or responsible for duties that they're either incapable or unwilling to do.

Posted by: DragonofAnger | October 29, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Before you start throwing stones at federal employees, look at the salaries of local governments. In suburban Charles County, salaries and benefits of central office staff not only exceed other school systems (even larger ones) but far exceed salaries of the federal employees with similar or more responsibility.

Posted by: gluemom | October 29, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

This idea that

A) Federal employees salaries are bogging down the economy
B) Federal employees dont deserve raises that almost all private employees get
C) Federal employees are more lazy than others

Are all idiotic, comical, and generally pathetic....and put out into the public to score points with their right-wing idiotic base

Posted by: Bious | October 29, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Given the state of the economy and the jobless rate, foregoing a Federal pay raise would seem to be the prudent thing to do, both from a practical perspective and one of optics. How many Feds are leaving their jobs because they are being underpaid? A 22% pay lag? Can't begin to imagine that the vast majority of Fed employees are that disadvantaged compared to private sector counterparts. And props to DragonofAnger for correctly pointing out the absurdity of anointing sainthood on private sector employees. Good and bad in both sectors.

Posted by: McKinley2 | October 29, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

As a public employee, I don't have senior managers that make 200% of what I make, and who, instead of creating jobs would rather sell the company to venture capitalists who strip the assets to enrich themselves, who would rather send jobs overseas, who pay themselves huge (non) perforamce bonuses then cut rank & file employee wages and benefits because "we have no money," who will buy back stock and then increase their dividends, and not only whine about high taxes, when the tax burden is the lowest since before WW II but anonomously finance ad campaigns critising the current administration because they aren't creating jobs fast enough. Kleptocracy lives and thy name is Wall Street!

Posted by: GeraldWhite | October 30, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

I am a federal employee. There are 2 factors here. 1.Fed salaries should be on par with the private sector, and 2. The Formula used to calculate that.
Gosh, wouldn't our high gov't officials love the sky-high pay of the private sector? Politicians boo the formula, calling it flawed. When they do agree with it, they do not honor its results with matching Federal salaries. It's a big game. I love my job, so I stay, however.

Posted by: Dean_Rogers | October 30, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Raises ??? !!!!
Quote from Larry Echohawk:“We have also made strides in improving the delivery of education to Indian country, both within the BIE’s 183 schools and two universities that serve more than 42,000 Indian students, and within the traditional public school system that serves 95 percent of Indian students”.

Really, Mr.Echohawk ? Ninety one percent of Haskell Indian Nations University students in Lawrence, Kansas are not graduating, crimes are high for such a small campus, and when Dr. Linda Sue Warner was detailed off of The Haskell campus, leadership at Haskell went with her. Since, then, on almost a week by week, basis, Haskell has had new “Acting administers” and we are using that term loosely.

Quote from Larry Echohawk:“Improved public safety in Indian country is important to establish a climate where students can focus on their education and economic growth can take root. That is why we launched the most aggressive recruiting and hiring effort for BIA officers in history, to bridge the serious gap in officer staffing in Indian country”.

Improved public safety in Indian Country, should that not include Haskell Indian Nations University? The very university that Mr. Echohawk is in charge of ? Or do American Indian students not count? Haskell’s safety officer, Debra Thompson is now gone from Haskell, her talents and skills lost to Haskell, forever. Is there now yet another acting???

Mr. Echohawk’s big tears and promises of help for Haskell apparently had no true meaning. What has he done for Haskell and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI)? Detailed of one the best President’s Haskell Indian Nations University ever had, along with one of it’s best safety officers’ and teachers like Dr. Russell Blackbird, let graduation rates plumb it to almost zero, students are being raped and one even put into a coma, put Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn in charge of The Bureau of Indian schools.

Let Southwestern Indian Polytechnic lose their accreditation!

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | October 30, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Sure federal employees should get raises, these two from The Bureau of Indian Education are great examples !!!! Ha!

What about getting fired like they already should have been????

Mr.Larry Echohawk and Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn let Southwestern Indian Polytechnic lose their accreditation!

Mr. Echohawk and Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn cut loose a lot of Haskell’s best employees and held on to a lot of the not so good ones, including it’s Board of Regents speared headed by George Tiger (for more information on Mr.Tiger go to: The voices of Courage .com) a lot of the board members (not all) only hold two years degrees, if that, and have been sitting this board for many years.

What do they do? Their traveling expenses to come to Haskell are paid for by Haskell, along with lodging and board (can some empty dorm rooms not to found for them? Can they not eat at Cutis)? They are paid for their time there and ran to Wal-Mart by Haskell employees. All the while crying to The Haskell students, Haskell has no money!

What does Haskell’s Board of Regents do for the Haskell students? Take away four year degree programs and sometimes ride on a float….too bad they don’t just float off of the Haskell campus.

Who put Larry Echohawk in charge? Oh, yes, President Barack Obama, we would like to thank him too.

How big is a mess, when U.S. Senators have to become involved and try to clean it up?

By the way we sincerely want to thank Senator Pat Roberts who continues trying to clean up Larry Echohawk’s and Stephanie Birdwell-Bighorn’s mess.

Keep crying Mr. Echohawk…your tears mean nothing anymore.

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | October 30, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

If you are curious, use the consumer price index back to 1984 and you'll see that in 20+ years, your federal salary is only a few thousand dollars more in terms of buying power than it was in 1984. It means that in 20+ years, all of your grade increases and step increases have only kept your purchasing power on par with what you made in 1984. Its very depressing to see the results, so I wouldn't recommend it....but if you're curious,,,take a look.

Posted by: AnnsThought | October 31, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm a GS13 attorney barely making ends meet. If no raise adjust the locality pay for DC to reflect our actual rents.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | October 31, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Is the "Rent Too Damn High?"

Posted by: yell53 | October 31, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

According to the Labor Department, there has been no inflation for the past two years, thus no cost of living increases for Social Security recipients and federal retirees. Why then, is there a need to increase federal salaries?

Posted by: geraf-CO | October 31, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

"Since the government workforce is more skilled than the private one, comparing all jobs skews private-sector salaries down, he has said."

More skilled?? More skilled at what??? How do you get this as a statement of fact?? So...federal employees are more skilled at...playing basketball than LeBron James?? This is a nonsensical statement. Better some sense, yes, if one counts college degrees as the only displace of education. But the following do not have college degrees (other than honorary): Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Dean Kagan. According to this way of thinking, these people should be paid what...GS-7 salaries, maybe with great effort, GS-9 salaries?? Government HR types confuse qualifications with capabilities. Its extremely difficult to evaluate the productivity of feds and their contribution to the economy.

The most efficient way to determine federal salaries is the way its done in the private sector. When the turnover ratio exceeds whats going on in the comparable private sector, you raise salaries. When the ratio is below or matches what's happening in the private nothing.

Feds have an advantage....the government can't go out of business. The private sector can fire at will....the government can't do that. In general, the government can't outsource overseas. How much is job security worth???

Posted by: eeterrific | November 1, 2010 2:30 AM | Report abuse

@ eeterrific... that is not correct. Yes, a majority of GS workers are considered white collar and many position require education or a degree with many years of experience. If it is clean up you want, then downgrade all employee that have no education or degree, but making the same salary. I'll go along with that. An example, there is NO reason that a GS-501-15 financial manager that doesn't require an education or degree but you have a GS-510-11 thru 15 that requires an education and degree. FIX that OPM! Stop the 501 abuses throughout the govt. Today, there are more higher graded 501's then there are 510's.

Oh heck with it! Just offer early outs... I'll be the first to take it... and hopefully many others will... let all these a-holes watch govt services go down the drain... You think it is bad now? I hope you get what you keep asking for!!!!!

Posted by: darbyohara | November 1, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

While some consider federal employees to be highly paid, the contractors we employ are even better off. In my agency, folks often retire on Friday and come back on Monday as contractors making much more than they did before. Contractors are also only supposed to fill a temporary void, but the ones here have been here for years. Several of the admin staff in my office are contractors, one having been here for at least 7 years. This is definitely something that needs to be fixed right away.

Posted by: notamused2 | November 1, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

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