Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
ARCHIVES

Earning New Benefits, Protecting Old Ones

In June 2011, the American Federation of Government employees won the right to represent employees at the Transportation Security Administration. More than a year later, TSA workers ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

That contract created new awards for employees, reformed the leave process, placed a greater emphasis on giving benefits to workers with seniority and increased the allowance for uniforms.

The agency and union could not come to an agreement on several elements of the negotiations, however, and the outstanding provisions were argued before an arbitration panel.

AFGE scored “important wins” for 45,000 Transportation Security Officers in the arbitration decision released this week. Among the victories was a small increase in parking subsidies. AFGE had supported 100 percent coverage, but TSA said it couldn’t afford it and the arbitrators settled on a maximum of $35 in out-of-pocket parking costs for employees.

The panel also ruled that TSA management must, when feasible, allow employees to bid on shifts for their home terminals in seniority order. The arbitrators declined to mandate the bidding, as AFGE requested, but increased the pressure to implement the process. AFGE also won the right to send representatives into some meetings with management.

“This is ...

Some Lawmakers Are Feeling More Generous Toward Feds

Congress has not exactly been kind to federal employees’ pay and benefits over the last couple years.

Are lawmakers finally turning a corner to help out the civilian workforce? Several members of Congress have introduced legislation in recent days to boost or improve an array of federal benefits. Of course, introducing a bill is a long way from passing it.

Here’s a look at what is being considered:

Retirement COLAs

Remember chained CPI? It would have created a new way to calculate the Consumer Price Index that would lead to less generous cost-of-living adjustments for federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. President Obama supported it as a way to reduce the federal deficit before removing from his fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

Well, Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., has a different idea, and it’s kind of the opposite of that. He introduced a bill that would base annuity increases to enrollees of the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System on CPI-E, or CPI for the elderly.

That formula, which the Labor Department already calculates, would lead to slightly higher annuities for federal retirees. Wonkblog has called CPI-E the “progressive alternative” to chained CPI. The measure weighs ...

Feds Petition for More Pay; Some Could Get It

Federal employees were, for the most part, not happy with President Obama’s proposal to once again raise their pay 1 percent in 2015.

Some are petitioning the White House to provide a larger increase.

One fed has taken to We the People, an online petition system created by the Obama administration, to ask for a 5 percent pay raise next year. Every raise after that should track inflation, the petition says.

“Federal civilian employees have paid their debt to the government,” the petition’s creator wrote. “We all deserve more pay for the devotion and hard work put forth every day.”

The petition had just 58 signatures as of Wednesday, well short of the 100,000 it needs to require an official White House response. If advocates of a larger pay raise for federal employees want to crack threshold, they may have to make it more Justin Bieber-focused.

Raise for Senior Level Managers

Most federal employees fall on the General Schedule and have received an across-the-board 1 percent raise in 2014. They are primed to receive the same bump in 2015.

Blue-collar workers on the Wage Grade schedule will require separate legislation to receive any raise, as Congress provided ...

Locality Pay Still in a Deep Freeze

Federal employees could be heading for their second consecutive year of a 1 percent pay raise.

President Obama announced the proposal earlier this week. Many are unhappy with the modest size of the recommendation, though clearly a small raise is better than no raise -- which was what feds received in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

However, while federal workers’ base pay likely will see a boost in 2015, that’s only one part of their overall compensation. The other aspect, locality pay rates, has been frozen since 2010. Obama has not yet recommended any adjustments for 2015.

Obama recommended a 2 percent raise to feds’ base pay in 2010, but suggested a freeze to locality pay rates. Congress instead granted a 1.5 percent base raise and a 0.5 percent boost to the location adjustments.

This two-pronged raise, which historically had been the standard approach to providing federal pay raises, created a location-based differential in the total pay hikes that employees received annually.  Employees in the Washington, D.C. region received an overall salary bump of 2.42 percent in 2010, for example, while the “rest of United States” category received just a 1.77 percent increase.

The Office of ...

Military Families Are Using Food Stamps More Than Ever

Much has been made of military compensation in recent months.

Congress reduced, then quickly restored, cuts to the pensions of working-age retirees. Pentagon officials have talked repeatedly about the need to curb rapidly expanding pay and benefits costs, while military advocacy groups have lobbied for maintaining current levels.

By at least one measure, many members of the military are still struggling to get by.

Military families used food stamps to purchase supplies at Defense Department grocery stores in fiscal 2013 more than in any other year, according to the Defense Commissary Agency.   

Members of the military redeemed almost $104 million worth of food stamps at commissaries from October 2012 through September 2013 fiscal year, as first reported by CNN. The figure has risen consistently since the economic recession hit in fiscal 2009.

Military families used about $5 million more worth of food stamps last year than in 2012. Their use of this government assistance, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has increased by more than 300 percent since 2007.

An increased use of food stamps in recent years is not unique to the military; Americans across the country have turned to the federal government’s assistance program during ...