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Posted at 11:06 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Darrell Issa wants to freeze some federal worker raises

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 2:20 p.m. ET
Buried amid the hundreds of proposed amendments to a Republican-backed government spending measure is a proposal to prohibit federal agencies from giving pay raises to workers who take on additional responsibilities and move to a higher pay grade.

It's the latest in a series of GOP bills targeting federal workers and their pay as potential solutions to trimming the government's ballooning deficit.

Rep. Darrell Issa's bill targets period step increases for federal workers paid under the General Schedule. About 20 percent of federal workers get the pay raise each year, mostly for seniority and not performance reasons, according to the California Republican's office.

"A system that rewards good work, removes poor performers and keeps pace with the private sector is long overdue," said Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella, who called his boss's bill "an important first step in pay reform."

Issa's aides noted that even Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry has called for serious changes to the government's pay and classification system.

"When it prevents managers from adapting their job responsibilities to the ever-shifting responsibilities of their departments, it becomes a millstone," Berry said during a November 2009 speech.

Berry used the address to call for "entirely eliminating classification" for federal employees, or doing away with the pay system used by federal agencies to measure compensation for six decades.

But Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Issa's amendment "unfairly singles out federal employees allegedly in the name of deficit reduction. In fact, it would have little to no impact on the deficit but would have a great impact of the ability of federal agencies to retain skilled employees, recruit promising new employees and meet their missions." Step increases are merit-based and not given on an annual basis, she added.

Just .06 percent of eligible federal workers were denied within-grade pay increases in fiscal 2009, according to OPM data provided to congressional Republicans.

Other Republicans are also targeting federal workers. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) wants to extend the federal worker pay freeze Obama enacted last year. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) wants to trim the size of the federal workforce by replacing every two workers who quit or retire with just one replacement. She introduced a similar measure last year.

As tireless colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane report today, the House is delaying a scheduled recess in order to finish voting on the spending bill. No word yet when or whether the Issa, Rokita and Lummis amendments will get a vote.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 18, 2011; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

From OPM:

Employees who occupy permanent positions earn WGIs upon meeting the following three requirements established by law:

The employee's performance must be at an acceptable level of competence. To meet this requirement, an employee's most recent performance rating of record must be at least Level 3 ("Fully Successful" or equivalent).
The employee must have completed the required waiting period for advancement to the next higher step.
The employee must not have received an "equivalent increase" in pay during the waiting period. (See 5 CFR 531.407.)

The time required is addressed too:

http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/HTML/wgifact.asp


This sort of conversation is supposed to happen between employers and employees anyway, at the very least at the yearly evaluation. Hopefully periodically throughout the year, if weaknesses (or strengths) are noticed.

Posted by: Skowronek | February 18, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Federal employees only get annual step increases in the first 3 years of their grade, after which it's every 2 years for the next six years of their grade, and then only every 3 years after that until they hit the ceiling when they don't get anymore increases. And all of that is dependent upon satisfactory performance evaluations by their supervisor and concurrence with their supervisor. And step increase is just 1-2%, insignificant, especially in these years when they're under small pay increases and now pay freezes.

I know this from my 28 years in federal service in and out of being a supervisor. There is nothing broken or wrong with this system and Rep. Issa needs to check the facts and understand the impacts of his intentions to rob federal employees of their due rights when they work hard and earn the increase.

Posted by: wsrphoto | February 18, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

When are they going to stop dancing around the real problem and start cutting actual positions?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 18, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Unbelivable. GO AFTER CORPORATE CHEATS FIRST. Then go after the rich who hide money in off-shore accounts. That's where the real money is. But republicans won't. They'd rather cause the middle class to hate their fellow citizens than mess with their corporate contributors. Wake up, middle class. You've been getting screwed for 30 years now.

Posted by: milana41 | February 18, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Unbelivable. GO AFTER CORPORATE CHEATS FIRST. Then go after the rich who hide money in off-shore accounts. That's where the real money is. But republicans won't. They'd rather cause the middle class to hate their fellow citizens than mess with their corporate contributors. Wake up, middle class. You've been getting screwed for 30 years now.

Posted by: milana41 | February 18, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

getjiggly1 turns in yet another highly productive day at his private sector job.

Posted by: finserra | February 18, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

This is a very sad and unacceptable program of the GOP leaders in the Congress that :"unfairly singles out federal employees allegedly in the name of deficit reduction". The Congress should consider that Congressmen and Senators should only be paid a small stipend and incidental expenses , e. g., the AmeriCorps volunteers' salary and benefits as an austerity measure . The AmeriCorps volunteers are serving in communities across the U. S. As we know the system the Congressmen and Senators play a very limited role in legislative process in Congress . The real legislative work is done by highly skilled professionals . These people are expensive lobbyists , on behalf of and paid for by a variety of interest groups , including big banks and business Corporations etc .

Posted by: dmfarooq | February 18, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

If we could/would legislate such strictures on health insurance employees, we'd solve half the problem of rising health costs. Especially if bloated executive wages/bonuses were controlled. Is this the new socialism?

Posted by: tscribe111 | February 19, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Okay, so why don't they start with their salaries? I wish I had a job where I could give myself a raise and then use double talk to make people forget about it. Just think how much they would save the taxpayers if they froze wages and gave back some of what they have given themselves. They talk about cutting "entitlements" like social security. How bout they start by paying for their healthcare and cutting their own pensions?

Posted by: bmyers54 | February 19, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Agencies could save a lot of money by cutting back on their Congressional relations staffs - you know, the people who respond to queries from Issa and his minions when constituents have problems or questions, fill out voluminous Congressionally-required reports and studies, and otherwise spend a whole lot of time doing something other than their agency's actual work.

Do thine own research, Congressman - the rest of us will apparently be doing less with less.

Posted by: A_Reader | February 19, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

If Issa wants a federal employment system "that rewards good work ... and keeps pace with the private sector" why is he proposing a system that does not reward good work or give raises along with promotions like the private sector does? Is Issa really as obtuse as he seems in the sound bites?

Posted by: mycroftt | February 21, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

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