TSA announces 2009 performance-based payouts

More than 30,000 employees under the Transportation Security Administration's new personnel system will receive sizable performance-based pay increases in addition to their regular 2009 raise of 3.9 percent.

TSA announced last week that 76 percent of the 40,000 employees working under the Performance Accountability and Standards System will receive performance-based payouts, meaning their supervisors rated the quality of their work as three or more on a five-point scale. Almost a third of those employees -- 32 percent -- received a rating of four, meaning they will earn a 2 percent performance-based increase and a $1,500 bonus. The 17 percent who received top ratings will get a 4 percent performance-based raise and a $2,500 bonus.

Special bonuses ranging from $600 to $1,500 also will be paid to high-performing dual-function officers as well as officers who received a high score on an image detection test, the agency said.

These pay hikes will supplement, not replace, an across-the-board raise of 3.9 percent, which will be granted to all TSA employees. The governmentwide adjustment will vary by locality pay area and "will be announced in a separate communication," TSA said.

In March, TSA announced it would make changes to PASS, including temporarily eliminating a test that measures screeners' knowledge of standard operating procedures, and replacing the system's five rating categories, such as "role model" or "exceeds standards," with numeric scores. TSA incorporated those modifications in the 2008 performance process.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said on Monday that TSA's report of "minuscule merit pay increases" buttresses the union's efforts to urge the new administration to issue a directive providing security officers with collective bargaining rights and placing them on the General Schedule, the pay system covering the bulk of federal employees.

"There are no alternatives for collective bargaining and a pay system that employees can view with clarity and trust," Kelley said. "PASS remains a poor substitute for what really is lacking at TSA -- a performance appraisal system that is transparent and credible with all TSA employees, and quality leadership that solicits, values and acts upon the ideas of front-line workers."

Kelley added that most of the TSA officers represented by NTEU are in Band D of the PASS system, and salaries range from $23,836 to $35,754. "The PASS increases and the January pay raise are on top of a low base salary and therefore amount to little when broken down per pay period," she said.

A.J. Castilla, a spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees TSA Local 1, said on Tuesday that PASS is "badly flawed," largely because employees must work alongside others who might be known to earn 10 percent to 15 percent more. He also said favoritism and cronyism are common under the pay system.

Castilla called for President-elect Barack Obama to review the program, and said Obama should seriously consider moving TSA employees back to the General Schedule in 2009.

"Where's the respect for this workforce?" Castilla asked. "They haven't lost one life or one plane in more than six years. These people have to get the respect in pay, and I'm hoping that we get that review next year."

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