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Ahuja Appoints Former OPM Director to Oversee the Federal Blue Collar Job Panel

Janice Lachance will chair an advisory committee governing the Federal Wage System, a pay scale that has long been criticized by employee groups for its outdated map of locality pay areas.

Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja announced Tuesday that she has appointed former OPM Director Janice Lachance to serve as the chairwoman of an advisory panel governing the pay system for blue collar federal employees.

The Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee is similar to the General Schedule’s Federal Salary Council, albeit for the Federal Wage System. Its members are made up of a mix of management appointees—from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, the military service branches, and OPM—and labor representatives.

Lachance was OPM director during President Clinton’s second term, after serving in a number of other roles at the agency, including deputy director, chief of staff, as well as director of communications and policy. She also has experience working for federal employee unions. Since leaving government, she has stayed involved in civil service issues, serving as president of the American Society for Public Administration and as a fellow with the National Academy of Public Administration.

“Janice is the right person at the right moment to lead this pivotal work to make sure critical federal employees are valued and paid fairly as they serve the American people, and we’re excited to welcome her back to OPM,” Ahuja said in a statement. “Janice brings tremendous institutional knowledge, consensus-building ability, and a strong understanding of labor law to this role. Her proven track record as a fair arbiter and experience navigating the specific rules and regulations that govern federal pay will inform her success ass FPRAC chair.”

Lachance’s appointment comes at a key moment for the Federal Wage System. Earlier this year, OPM and the Defense Department established a new $15 minimum wage for federal employees hired using the pay scale.

And federal employee groups are continuing to pressure the administration and lawmakers to sync up the locality pay area maps—on which the Federal Salary Council and Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee issue recommendations—for both the wage system and the General Schedule. At issue is the fact that, unlike the General Schedule’s locality pay areas, which are tweaked on a nearly annual basis to account for changing costs of living and regional commuting patterns, the Federal Wage System’s map is still based mostly on a decades-old map of domestic military bases and other facilities.

A proposal to align the two pay systems’ locality pay maps had been part of the House version of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, but it was ultimately left out of the final package that became law last December.

“I am honored and pleased to have been asked to once again join OPM, where I look forward to working with Director Ahuja and the OPM staff to ensure a Federal Wage System that is grounded in fairness and equity,” Lachance said. “Working in partnership with employee unions and federal agencies, I am confident we can make real progress on President Biden’s promise to provide additional economic security and dignity to these dedicated workers who provide important services to our nation.”