Federal employee groups set legislative priorities

While Congress continues to get its house in order--the House Government Reform Committee still has four unassigned seats--federal labor unions and groups representing federal managers have set their legislative agendas for the incoming Congress and the new administration.

And they have decided to make pay their top legislative priority once again. The top three issues for the Senior Executives Association in 2001 are "a pay raise, a pay raise, and a pay raise for the SES," according to SEA general counsel Jerry Shaw. Besides pushing for a general pay hike, SEA will lobby to lift the cap on executive pay that has left SESers at the top three pay levels with the same pay for years. As bonuses become more popular as a way of compensating senior managers, the union will ask Congress to make bonuses count toward retirement. SEA will also press to give agency heads the authority to offer phased retirement to senior managers without cuts in their annuities. Other priorities include supporting pay banding for all federal managers and allowing career executives to cash out annual leave and sick leave before they retire. The Federal Managers Association will seek to curb outsourcing by supporting the Truth Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act. The TRAC Act, H.R. 3766, was introduced by Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md. last session. Under the TRAC Act, all federal agencies would be required to publish contractor inventories in addition to annual lists of government jobs that could be performed by contractors, as required by the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act. The TRAC Act would also require that in-house government workers be considered for jobs before those duties are outsourced.

FMA will also support raising the cap on managers' overtime pay. Currently, managers earn the same rate of overtime pay as GS-10 Step 1 employees, meaning that managers working overtime can earn less than the employees they supervise. FMA also plans to support the reintroduction of H.R. 2551, which eliminates the requirement that managers purchase certain products through Federal Prison Industries Inc. The union will press to allow federal retirees and annuitants to pay for health insurance through pre-tax dollars. Finally, FMA will oppose further reductions in operational supervisors at the Federal Aviation Administration and any new armed forces base closures.

The nation's two largest unions for federal employees, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) say they will focus their attention on the escalating cost of health insurance premiums in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, outsourcing and privatization, and blue collar pay raises.

Passage of the TRAC Act will be a priority for both unions in 2001. "Privatization is not saving the money it is claimed to have saved," said AFGE president Bobby Harnage. Both unions will focus on closing the gap between private and public sector pay rates. "If you want to do something about recruitment and retention, handle the pay," Harnage said. President George Bush signed the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act in 1990. The act created a formula to close the gap between private and public sector pay over 10 years beginning in 1994. The full pay raises needed to close the gap have never been enacted because the Clinton administration has opposed the methodology used to measure the pay gap.

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