Employee groups call for pay parity in budget proposal

Federal employee groups are pushing the Obama administration to include equal raises for members of the military and civil servants in the budget to be released Monday, as White House officials said on Friday that they would request a 1.4 percent military pay raise for 2011.

"Given the continuing economic turmoil facing our nation, coupled with the proposed budget freeze on nondiscretionary spending, most people recognize that the next pay raise won't compete with some of the more generous increases from past years," said Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. He said the union "is hopeful that at the very least the president's budget this time around will recognize the bipartisan tradition of pay parity."

The 1.4 percent pay raise for members of the military would be the lowest for the armed forces since 1973, when the draft was abolished and the military became an all-volunteer force. The president cannot request a raise for the military higher than the Employment Cost Index, which measures the increase in compensation costs, including benefits. On Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the cost of labor had risen 1.5 percent between December 2008 and December 2009.

A 1.4 percent raise for both the military and civilians would be substantially lower than the 3.4 percent fiscal 2010 increase for the military that began this month. Civilian employees received a 2 percent pay boost for fiscal 2010.

In December, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that during negotiations over ensuring part of the 2010 civilian pay raise was dedicated to locality pay -- a move President Obama initially opposed, -- he had "been assured [the administration] will provide parity in next year's budget."

Hoyer and Darryl Perkinson, president of the Federal Managers Association, said it was important for the administration to understand that civil servants are substantially involved in supporting military operations. And Perkinson noted that the president's agenda has added to civil servants' workloads.

"From managing and executing many of the administration's bold initiatives to restore America's financial security to serving alongside their armed forces counterparts on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, today's federal workforce wears many hats in the effort to provide the American public with the programs and services they expect and deserve," he said.

Randy Erwin, legislative director for the National Federation of Federal Employees, said he was confident there would not be a pay freeze for civilian employees in 2011.

"Pay for civilian federal workers already lags far behind private sector workers doing the same jobs, and eliminating the principle of pay parity could make this problem much worse," he said. "Even at 1.4 percent, many federal workers are likely to see a decrease in their take home pay after increases to health care premiums and other fees are factored in."

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