Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. Matt Rourke/AP

Bill Would Give Blue Collar Feds an Across-the-Board Pay Raise, Too

Legislation is necessary to give hourly workers the same annual COLA bump as salaried employees.

Hourly federal employees would receive the same across-the-board pay raise as their salaried colleagues in January under legislation unveiled on Thursday.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House would ensure the 1 percent pay increase General Schedule federal employees are on track to receive next year applies to Wage Grade workers as well. President Obama’s recommended 1 percent pay hike for civilian employees on the GS pay scale will take effect in January unless Congress specifically blocks it, which seems unlikely at this point. It will be the first annual cost-of-living adjustment for federal employees in three years.

The president has the authority to set pay raises under the GS scale, but not under the wage grade system. Lawmakers would have to pass separate legislation granting pay increases for blue-collar workers. Under the uniform wage grade pay system, employee pay must be the same for all federal workers with similar jobs and align with comparable private-sector jobs in the same area, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

“The inconsistency in wages between WG and GS employees is inequitable,” said Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. “It hurts a group of Americans that can least afford a fourth year with no increase at all.” Several Republicans are co-sponsors of the bill.

More than 174,000 wage grade employees work for the Defense Department, which had to furlough hundreds of thousands of employees under sequestration, and briefly, during the government shutdown last month. The Veterans Affairs Department and Bureau of Prisons also employ many blue-collar workers.

The legislation was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Cartwright in June introduced a bill to fix pay discrepancies between blue and white-collar federal workers caused by differences in the way the OPM classifies wage areas. That legislation is still in committee.