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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Protection Bureau Wants Union Protection


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has unionized and first up on the agenda is improving employees’ workspace.

CFPB’s Washington, D.C., headquarters -- located adjacent to the White House -- will soon undergo renovations after employees complained of being forced to work in cramped conditions. Groups of four or five people are currently sharing offices with very thin walls, Politico reported.

And just when CFPB workers thought it could not get any worse, they may now be faced with no offices at all. Various reports have said CFBP employees may have to work from home or public spaces -- such as cafes -- while renovations are conducted.

A CFPB spokeswoman told Government Executive the agency is still weighing its options.

"The CFPB's headquarters building has not been renovated since it was constructed in 1976 and requires significant infrastructure upgrades,” the spokeswoman said. “No final decisions have been made on the specific nature of those renovations or on employee swing space during such renovations. We continue to seek input and evaluate the best options for minimizing costs while maximizing employee well-being and productivity."

The CFPB workforce recently voted to grant the National Treasury Employees Union representation rights. In a statement, NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley promised to tackle the workspace issue as a top priority.

“At the top of our agenda for headquarters employees will be making sure your interests are represented in the impending move to temporary space,” Kelley said.

Before CFPB employees voted on which union they wanted to represent them, NTEU attempted to win the workers’ votes by citing its success on previous workspace issues. The union has forced the Health and Human Services Department to engage it in negotiations if HHS plans to reduce an employee’s office space more than a certain amount.

NTEU also promised to address issues such as travel, the performance appraisal system, dispute resolution, and staffing and workload concerns.

Roth Investments Gaining Popularity

The number of federal employees choosing Roth-style investments has nearly doubled in 2013, gaining 88,000 enrollees since January.

Roth-type investments -- which were added to the options under the Thrift Savings Plan last May – allow enrollees to contribute post-tax money that is not taxed again upon withdrawal.  Though TSP started accepting Roth-style investments a year ago, participants at many agencies could not choose the options until months later because their payroll providers had not yet adjusted, according to The Washington Post.

As of April, investors had $355 million in Roth accounts, making up just 1 percent of all TSP investments.

Military Retirement Spending on the Rise

The U.S. military’s retirement obligations will rise by more than 30 percent over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Pentagon will dole out about $54 billion this year to military retirees and their survivors. By 2023, that number is expected to grow to about $72 billion.

Two-thirds of that increase is attributable to inflation; the Defense Department adjusts the benefits annually. The rest of the growth, according to CBO, will come from increases in the initial benefit for new retirees, which is calculated from service members’ basic pay during active service. That figure typically grows faster than inflation.

CBO projects the number of beneficiaries will remain steady at about 2.3 million over the next decade. 

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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