Senator To Focus on Federal Employee Pay, Morale

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Charles Dharapak/AP File Photo

This story has been updated.

A key lawmaker with jurisdiction over the federal workforce plans to hold a hearing to “examine the state of the federal workforce,” which will include ensuring federal employees’ compensation stays competitive with the private sector.

In addition to pay issues, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., hopes to focus on how the government can improve the public’s perception of its employees. Tester spoke Wednesday at the legislative conference of the National Treasury Employees Union, telling the crowd he wanted to make sure the public respected the work feds do and the sacrifices they make.

“Each of you became public servants for a reason,” Tester said. “Some of you love your work. Others love the idea of making our country the best it can be. But you all make sacrifices to serve your fellow Americans.”

Tester, who leads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs federal workforce subcommittee, will scrutinize the morale of federal workers, including the effects of the government shutdown, sequestration and freezes on hiring and pay. The senator will highlight what agencies with high employee satisfaction ratings are doing right, and examine the initiatives those with poor ratings are pursuing to improve their standing. 

Tester feels the 1 percent raise for civilian employees in 2015 proposed by President Obama is too low and will work “to find a better solution,” according to a spokesman, Dan Malessa. The moderate Democrat may propose legislation to address morale issues, Malessa said, but will wait to see the results of the hearing.

In his address Wednesday, Tester said federal employees are not fairly compensated for their responsibilities.

“Politicians like to demand an efficient and effective federal government,” he said, “but you’d never know it judging by the way they view and treat workers like you.”

In addition to pay freezes and relatively small raises, Tester pointed to retirement benefits and workers’ compensation benefits as areas in which feds have been unfairly threatened. Tester attempted to strip the workers' comp provision -- which would reduce the benefit provided to former employees once they reach retirement age -- during the postal bill's markup and voted against its passage in committee. Additionally, he said, sequestration and the shutdown sent a message that the work federal employees do is not valuable.

“It implied that your work isn’t essential, but we all know that isn’t true.”

The hearing, which will happen in late April or early May, also will look into “innovative programs and actions” agencies are pursuing to find and retain individuals who serve in hard-to-recruit jobs.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify the intent of any possible legislation from Sen. Tester. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.