Democratic lawmaker to push for bigger federal pay raise

The chairman of a House government reform subcommittee said on Wednesday that said he would push for a federal pay raise as high as 3.9 percent in fiscal 2010 and advocate for parity between civilian and military pay outlined.

During the National Treasury Employees Union legislative conference in Washington, Rep. Stephen Lynch called the size of the 2010 civilian pay raise "fluid," but "fluid in the right direction." The Massachusetts Democrat is the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Federal Workforce Subcommittee. "When I raised a concern, they said, 'Don't beat us up yet, that's not a final number.' We're pushing on our end for parity, but we want even the military number to move up," he said.

The president's fiscal 2010 budget recommends a 2 percent pay raise for civilian employees and a 2.9 percent boost for military service members.

Lynch said he hoped the final number for the pay raise would reflect the rise in the cost of living, and mentioned 3.9 percent as a possible goal, but told the crowd of several hundred activists "Don't quote me," as they headed out to meetings with other congressmen.

NTEU president Colleen Kelley said in a press briefing on Wednesday that parity was her main objective.

"The pay issue, of pay parity, this is one [where] our discussions will be different than they have been in the past because this year we have an administration who wants to talk to us and who wants to work with us," she said. "When we have people like [House Majority Leader] Steny Hoyer who are going to work with the administration also, I think it's possible."

Lynch is off to a fast start as subcommittee chairman. He introduced legislation that will make changes to the Thrift Savings Plan and the Federal Employee Retirement System on Tuesday, and will mark up the 2009 Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act on March 25. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told NTEU members on Tuesday that the parental leave bill was a "common-sense" initiative, and he hoped it would pass Congress quickly.

Lynch told NTEU activists that his ambitions range further. He plans to include enhanced whistleblower protections in reauthorizations of the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and legally establish collective bargaining rights for Transportation Security Administration employees.

Collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners is a major priority for NTEU. Kelley said that when she met with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, she reaffirmed the union's belief that Napolitano can extend collective bargaining rights to TSA workers if she chooses to. Napolitano said at a hearing last week that she was looking into whether she had that authority.

NTEU has begun organizing the agency's local union chapters even though the union cannot yet negotiate contracts for those workers. The American Federation of Government Employees also is organizing TSA locals, but Kelley said the two unions were not working together.

"I would like to work with anyone who has those same goals," she said. "To date, AFGE has not been interested in working with NTEU on that, and the conversation has not gotten to ground rules for an [union] election."

But TSA is not the only agency where the relationship between unions and management is at stake. Lynch said in an interview after his speech that he would like to consult with the subcommittee's working group on personnel issues to develop a bill to reestablish the Clinton-era labor-management partnerships, with some changes. Lynch would not specify what parts of the Clinton partnerships he would like to see altered, but said economic circumstances and the budget would have to be taken into account.

Lynch also said he expects to meet with John Berry, President Obama's nominee to lead the Office of Personnel Management to share some suggestions for the agency.

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