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Lawmaker Seeks to End Pay Discrepancies Between Blue and White Collar Feds

Bill would stop inconsistent treatment based on locality areas.

Lawmakers and labor groups are pushing to fix pay discrepancies between blue and white-collar federal workers caused by differences in the way the Office of Personnel Management classifies wage areas.

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., has introduced the 2013 Locality Pay Equity Act to end what he calls an “archaic” system that creates pay disparities between employees on the General Schedule system and those that are paid hourly. Cartwright cited the example from his home district; General Schedule employees at Tobyhanna Army Depot are subject to a 25 percent pay differential over hourly employees because OPM classifies the two groups of workers as living in different wage areas.

“The current wage inconsistency at Tobyhanna is an issue in which I have been interested since last year; the current system is dated and does not take into account current regional considerations and statistics,” Cartwright said in a statement. He noted that the proposed legislation would “level the playing field.”

The private sector does not vary the pay of salaried and hourly workers based on localities, according to American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. He recommended that the federal government follow suit.

“Treating salaried and hourly workers differently in this context is unfair and inefficient,” Cox said. “It makes the blue-collar employees at military depots, federal prisons and VA hospitals feel like second-class citizens.” Cox added that hourly workers face the same costs of living as their salaried counterparts, and said that the current system was “unconscionable.”

The Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee -- the labor management committee that studies pay for federal blue collar workers -- voted to “end the practice of treating blue collar and white collar federal employees differently with regard to the drawing of local labor market boundaries” in November 2010, according to AFGE. OPM must submit the policy for public review before it can be officially implemented.

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