The two largest unions representing federal employees Monday urged President George W. Bush to fully implement a 10-year-old law designed to close the pay gap between government and industry. Union Presidents Bobby L. Harnage, of the American Federation of Government Employees, and Colleen M. Kelley, of the National Treasury Employees Union, sent Bush a letter asking for a meeting to discuss full implementation of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA), a bipartisan bill signed into law by former President George H. Bush in 1990. Under the act, a formula was created to close the gap between federal and private sector salaries over 10 years beginning in 1994. The pay gap at that time was calculated to be 28 percent, on average. But a loophole in the law allows the President to issue smaller raises each year under certain conditions. The Clinton administration consistently used that loophole because it believed the FEPCA methodology was flawed and because it didn't want to increase federal spending with the higher FEPCA-formulated raises. That formula would have resulted in a raise estimated to be as high as 16.6 percent for 2001. Instead, Clinton ordered a 3.7 percent pay increase
in December for white-collar federal employees. Harnage and Kelley said recruiting and retaining skilled government employees is crucial since 53 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2004. "We believe the single most important thing that can be done to improve the federal government's ability to respond effectively to the impending retirements and to retain the skilled employees necessary to carry out our government's mission is to implement FEPCA, which was signed by your father in 1990," said the letter. The two unions together represent more than 850,000 federal workers.