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Employee Groups Encouraged by End to Pay Freeze Threat

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Officials with groups that represent federal employees applauded President Trump’s decision last week to end his quest to implement a pay freeze for civilian federal workers, but said his proposed 2020 raise is not enough.

Last week, Trump surprised many by announcing an alternative pay plan that would provide federal civilian employees with a 2.6% across-the-board raise next year. The plan, which is issued each year to avoid much higher automatic pay increases under the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act, marked a reversal from the White House's fiscal 2020 budget proposal, which advocated freezing federal employee pay at 2019 levels.

Although Trump’s new plan would provide a 2.6% raise to all federal employees next year, there would be no changes to locality pay. The House has passed appropriations legislation that would provide the same across-the-board pay raise to feds, as well as an average 0.5% increase in locality pay.

Federal employee groups said that while they appreciate the president’s abandonment of his pay freeze proposal, a 2.6% raise would be inadequate.

“President Trump’s action to provide federal employees with a 2.6% across-the-board pay raise next year is a positive step for the public servants who keep our country running every day,” said J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “[But] the pay raise falls short by failing to provide any locality-based pay adjustments, which are essential if the government is ever going to make real progress in closing the gap between the federal and private sectors.”

The Federal Managers Association likewise touted the House plan to increase federal compensation.

“FMA has endorsed the effort in the House-passed Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill to provide a 3.1% pay raise for 2020, which includes a locality pay boost, and would provide parity with the uniformed military,” FMA President Renee Johnson said. “While we certainly prefer a 3.1% raise, which would provide a reasonable boost to feds in more expensive regions, we commend President Trump for changing course and pursuing a pay raise in 2020.”

Ken Thomas, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said he was “heartened” by Trump’s decision to support a pay raise.

“While his budget request earlier this year called for a pay freeze, this reversal is a positive step to allow the federal government to better compete with the private sector to attract and retain a highly qualified, top-performing federal workforce, and improve morale for the millions of hardworking professionals who keep this country running safely and efficiently every day,” Thomas said. “However, the proposed 2.6% raise lags behind recent private sector pay increases, and NARFE continues to support the 3.1% average raise approved by the House in July.”