Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., supports raising civilian pay to match military a military pay increase.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., supports raising civilian pay to match military a military pay increase. Steve Helber/AP

Federal Employee Groups Push for Pay Parity

Congress has until Dec. 8 to approve a long-term spending package, while President Trump could raise civilian wages unilaterally before the end of 2017.

Groups representing federal workers called on lawmakers and President Trump to increase the proposed 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian employees to 2.4 percent, matching the across-the-board pay increase for military personnel included in Congress’ latest version of the $700 billion defense authorization bill.

On Wednesday, House and Senate leaders announced they had reached an agreement on the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the military pay raise provision. The 2.4 percent figure is higher than the original 2.1 percent raise for service members proposed by Trump in his fiscal 2018 budget request, and represents a full one-half percentage point above what the White House proposed for civilian feds.

While Washington, D.C. area Democrats said they will push for pay parity between the military and civilian federal workforces ahead of the Dec. 8 deadline for passage of a long-term government spending bill, employee groups have begun a lobbying campaign of their own. National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon noted in a statement that the 1.9 percent pay hike for civilian workers is far below the average 3 percent pay increase forecasted for private sector employees next year.

“The federal workforce, military and civilian, is made up of people who have dedicated their careers to public service and they all deserve a pay increase that at least tries to keep up with wage increases in the private sector,” Reardon said. “All across the country, Americans have witnessed a joint effort by the Pentagon and non-defense federal agencies to respond to the hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated millions of residents, showing that in times of crisis our civilian and military personnel often serve side-by-side in rescue and recovery missions.”

Last year, President Obama unilaterally instituted pay parity for the federal workforce in 2017, increasing civilian employees’ pay from 1.6 percent to 2.1 percent, matching the figure laid out for military service members in the 2017 NDAA.

Federal Managers Association President Renee Johnson also joined the call for lawmakers to extend the 2.4 percent pay increase to civilian feds, and she thanked Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., for their support on the issue.

“As our nation struggles to close its deficit spending, we are very aware that sacrifices must be made, but federal employees have endured many years of pay freezes or very small increases,” Johnson said in a statement. “We appreciate the support we have from some in Congress and ask that pay parity return to a matter of course. The annual pay raise was designed to close the gap between the public and private sector salaries.”