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Hourly Federal Employees Will Receive a Pay Raise Too

Omnibus caps blue-collar feds' pay bump at same rate GS workers will receive.

President Obama’s decree last week to give federal employees a pay raise was not entirely universal.

While Congress must simply stay silent to allow the White House to move forward with its desired pay increase (or freeze), the president’s order applies only to the majority of federal workers receiving an annual salary. A separate act of Congress is required each year to give a pay raise to the hourly workers on the wage grade schedule.

In years past, Congress has failed to bring parity to the pay bump for salaried and hourly workers. In the recently signed omnibus spending deal, however, Congress specifically included language allowing blue-collar feds to receive the same percentage pay bump as their white-collar colleagues. The law caps the raise at the increase received by General Schedule employees.

Office of Personnel Management acting Director Beth Cobert issued a memorandum to federal agencies last week telling them to cap the hourly pay raise at 1.37 percent. That figure represented both the 1 percent across-the-board raise certified by Obama last week, as well as the average adjustment of the first increase to locality pay in five years.

Wage Grade workers could receive a raise of less than 1.37 percent if the annual wage survey of private sector rates in a given area is lower than that amount, Cobert said. The omnibus also spelled out a formula for determining the minimum raise for each wage area.

Unlike the raise for GS employees, the Wage Grade increase is applicable to the 2016 fiscal year. That means the increase is retroactive to Oct. 16, 2015.

Earlier this year, Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., and Tom Cole, R-Okla., introduced a measure that would permanently give the president the authority to provide equal pay raises to salaried and hourly workers. Congress has yet to act on that bill.

“The importance of recognizing the critical role civilian employees play cannot be underestimated,” Cartwright said when introducing the bill. “Federal employees have been underappreciated and undervalued for far too long.”

Cartwright put forward a separate bill in September that would ensure white and blue-collar employees at the same location are considered to be in the same pay area. Currently, the two groups can be treated as working in different localities.

There are nearly 200,000 Wage Grade employees in the federal government, most of whom work at the Defense Department.

Cobert also issued a memo last week authorizing a 1 percent pay raise to Title V employees on special pay rate tables. In 2016, the only executive branch employees not receiving a pay bump are Vice President Joe Biden and most political appointees

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