Labor leader pushes 3.5 percent military, civilian pay raise

A federal labor union on Wednesday joined a coalition of organizations representing members of the military and their families in calling for a 3.5 percent 2008 pay hike for both service members and civilian federal employees.

In letters to members of the House and Senate Armed Services military personnel subcommittees, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, supported a 3.5 percent raise for service members, and said civilian federal workers deserve the same. Like the military, "federal civilian workers serve their country faithfully and are facing a widening pay gap," she said.

The 3.5 percent proposal is a half-percentage point higher than the raise the Bush administration requested for the military and the civilian federal workforce in its fiscal 2008 budget. Kelley has called the administration's recommendation "a failure," arguing that it will "put the federal government at a further disadvantage with the private sector in hiring."

The administration's proposal reflects the change in the Employment Cost Index. But in recent years the raise has been higher than that, Kelley noted. The fiscal 2000 and 2004 Defense authorization acts called for a 0.5 percent increase above the ECI figure for the military, she said, adding that the administration followed that standard every year until 2007. In her letter to lawmakers, she also noted that over the past two decades, there have been equal adjustments in military and civilian pay nearly every year.

"I want to urge the subcommittees to provide the military with the additional one-half percent," Kelley wrote, "and I will be pushing for the identical raise for the federal civilian workforce."

Another large federal employee union -- the American Federation of Government Employees -- has proposed a 4 percent pay raise for 2008. "While this will certainly not solve all the government's problems with regard to pay, recruitment, retention and fairness, it would take us a good distance in the right direction and is eminently affordable," said J. David Cox, AFGE's national secretary-treasurer, earlier this month.

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