For months, federal employees have quietly waited to learn the fate of their long-awaited pay raise.
In August, President Obama affirmed his intention to grant an across-the-board, 1 percent increase. The first raise since 2010 was far from out of the woods, however. In 2012, Obama recommended a 0.5 percent pay raise for 2013, only to have it struck down by Congress.
Congress had the chance to do the same when it ended the government shutdown in October, but declined to do so. It once again could have struck down the raise in the latest budget agreement, but once again let the raise remain.
And with the House out of town and not scheduled to return until 2014, the raise is now a done deal, ending three consecutive years of frozen pay. The raise will kick in on Jan. 1 and only apply to feds’ basic rates of pay. Locality pay will remain at 2013 levels.
While the raise will apply to nearly all federal employees, blue-collar workers on the Wage Grade pay scale will not receive any increase. Federal employee unions and Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., have championed their cause, with Cartwright introducing a bill that would give wage grade employees -- who receive hourly pay -- the same 1 percent pay raise as salaried General Schedule workers.
The legislation had bipartisan support, with 11 Democratic and nine Republican cosponsors. Their efforts ultimately fell short, however, as the House has recessed and Cartwright’s bill is still stuck in committee.
“The inconsistency in wages between WG and GS employees is inequitable,” Cartwright said when introducing the bill. “It hurts a group of Americans that can least afford a fourth year with no increase at all.”
More than 174,000 wage grade employees work for the Defense Department, which had to furlough hundreds of thousands of employees under sequestration, and briefly, during the government shutdown in October. The Veterans Affairs Department and Bureau of Prisons also employ many blue-collar workers.