Negotiations continue over special rate case settlement

The National Treasury Employees Union and the federal government have agreed to try and reach a settlement by Nov. 30 in a 1983 back pay case involving 188,000 federal employees.

Attorneys for NTEU and the Office of Personnel Management met yesterday in district court to report on their progress in implementing a plan to reimburse thousands of federal workers who received few if any pay increases from 1982 through 1988 because of an OPM regulation. That regulation denied special rate employees pay increases based on annual adjustments to the government's general schedule.

Special rate employees are paid at higher levels because they work in occupations that are difficult to fill due to job duties or locale.

NTEU challenged the OPM regulation-which the district court ruled illegal in 1987-in a 1983 class action lawsuit. In 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the government owed affected employees back pay, sending the case back to the lower court to determine compensation, but employees are still waiting for their money.

"The time for the government to pay up is long past," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. "The court has clearly ruled, without question, that the government owes the money. It must reach agreement with NTEU, without further delay, on a method for meeting its obligations. There is no good excuse as to why, more than two and a half years after the court's ruling, the government still hasn't come to grips with its duty to pay."

At the hearing yesterday, John Tyler, an attorney representing OPM, said figuring out a formula for individual awards was a complicated matter, and that the government is eager to bring the case to a close.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again in district court Dec. 7 to report on whether an agreement has been reached.

For more information and regular updates on the special rates case, go to NTEU's site at www.nteu.org/specrates.html.

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