Step Increases in Federal Pay or How to get a raise while your pay is frozen
President Obama, triangulating his way to 2012, has proposed to freeze federal employee pay for 2 years. Given that said employees have received raises throughout the current recession, it’s probably about time. But let’s not forget those step increases! As regular AR readers know, year to year, each unionized employee moves up a job “step” and receives a pay bump–what many would consider a “raise”. In union-speak, just going up a step isn’t a raise; a “real” raise is the percent increase in each step from year to year. Last year, for instance, federal workers saw a pay increase of 1.5% (PDF).
Each GS level has ten steps, with varying built in raises. For instance, according to the basic General Service (GS) table, a GS-10 receives a $1,526 increase for each step. So, if you were at step 9 in 2010, you received a base salary of $57,979. Next year, with no raise (per se), you will move to step 10 and your base salary will increase to $59,505. That’s the kind of pay freeze I’d like to have! Yet, the Federal Employee union heads and liberals are caterwauling because President Obama proposed a 2% raise in March, which, for example, would have increased the GS-10 step increases to around $1,556 (around $30/step). So instead of making $59,505, our fictional GS-10 at step 10 could have been making about $59,535. Yup, 30 bucks less of a raise than one that was once mentioned is what has ’em up in arms.
“Of course, he’s playing politics,” said Derrick Thomas, a national vice present of the American Federation of Government Employees. Thomas oversees the federation’s 2nd District, which represents 100,000 federal workers in New England, New York and New Jersey. “He’s caving in to the Republicans, to the Cato Institute, to the Heritage Foundation, at the expense of his workers.
“It’s really disappointing.”
A pay freeze could affect thousands of federal employees for years to come as their retirement benefits are dependent on the “High 3,” the highest average basic pay they earn during any three consecutive years of federal service.
“I don’t think it’s quite right; we’re going to get slammed with that,” said Roland B. Sasseville, the current Pawtucket chapter president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “If they freeze it now, [federal workers] are going to have a lull in their earnings.”
“Today’s announcement … is bad for the middle class, bad for the economy and bad for business,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.
Don’t let them fool you, their unionized workers are still getting raises. As for the non-union federal workers, this 2 year pay freeze is small potatoes after uninterrupted pay increases during the last decade or so, regardless of inflation or recession.