Proposal to eliminate 2005 locality pay increase angers unions

A proposal by the Bush administration to hold the civilian pay raise at 2.5 percent and provide no locality pay increase in 2005 drew ire from the two largest federal employee unions on Thursday.

Last week, Congress approved the fiscal 2005 omnibus bill, which includes a 3.5 percent average pay raise for civil service workers. A bloc of lawmakers, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., fought for the larger pay raise after the Bush administration included a 1.5 percent civilian pay raise in its fiscal 2005 budget proposal released in February.

On Monday, however, the Bush administration sent an alternative pay plan to congressional leaders, proposing to give civil service workers a 2.5 percent pay raise next year while holding locality pay at 2004 levels. The president cited the expenses of the war on terrorism as a reason for his frugality with civilian raises.

Union officials blasted the president's alternate plan on Thursday, calling it a sign of the "low value he attaches to the efforts and contributions of federal workers."

"This kind of action has an inevitable adverse impact on federal employee morale," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley, calling it "an unnecessary and unwise step backward in recruitment and retention efforts by federal agencies."

Linda Bennett, a lobbyist with the American Federation of Government Employees, expressed frustration with the plan.

"We are disappointed that the president proposed no locality pay raises for federal workers who work day and night to protect our borders and to strengthen our nation's general welfare and defense," Bennett said. "The president needs to listen to Congress. They have said loud and clear to provide federal employees with a 3.5 percent pay increase."

The omnibus bill's status is unclear as House members want to remove a provision that would have expanded congressional access to individual tax returns at the Internal Revenue Service. If the spending bill is not enacted, the alternative plan will take effect in January, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

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