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.

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Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Marc, I’m seeing more like a 3% raise with those “step increases”. Here’s my math:
Grade 1, Step 1: 17803
Grade 1, Step 2: 18398
18398-17803= 595
595/17803 = 3.3%
Everything that I read says the US inflation rate for 2010 to date is 1.2%. So they’re going to get a raise that is just short of triple the inflation rate, during a pay freeze?
Nice!

Ken
Ken
10 years ago

Marc,
Yes there are ten steps but it takes 21 years to go across the steps.
Step 1 through 3 are every year.
Step 4 through 6 are every two years.
Step 7 through 10 are every three years.

Ken
Ken
10 years ago

ADDEMDUN:
Marc,
In your example you said; “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.”
In real life under Office of Personnel Management (OPM) rules the GS-10 step 9 cannot proceed to a step 10 without waiting 3 years plus having a fully successful supervisory written review placed in personal records so there is no way your example will work.
Also after 21 years that is the top step so any increase in salary would come from negotiated cost of living adjustments by administration. Each federal job title has a specific WGS (hourly), GS (salaried) and ranking (1 to 15) allocated to the 10 step structure so after 21 years on the job and you are at top step 10 that is it for your advancement unless you went back to school for management courses and then you have to wait for a job opening to continue advancing or move to another department, agency, district or state where there is an opening.
If you are lucky to make it to even get to a GS-15 level your salary maximum limit is limited by Senior Executive Service (SES rankings I to V with no step increments) salaries as are the WGS wages and overtime can’t be more than a GS salaried income.
I was a GS-11 step 5 before the command I was working with got closed by BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure).

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

““He’s caving in to the Republicans, to the Cato Institute, to the Heritage Foundation, at the expense of his workers.”
No, he’s “caving” to the beleaguered taxpayer.
Let’s remember also that, while this pay freeze is a good step, it completely disregards the hiring binge that Uncle Sam (D) has been on for the last couple of years. A better step, if reducing expenditures is the goal, would be a pay freeze accompanied by a return to the federal employee staffing level of, say, three years ago.

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