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Unions Blast Obama’s Two-Year Pay Freeze Plan

Federal employee unions were sharply critical of a plan by President Obama to freeze pay for the 1.9 million civilian federal workforce over the next two years. The freeze is expected to generate $2 billion in savings in FY 2011, the White House said.

Federal employee unions were sharply critical of a plan by President Obama to freeze pay for the 1.9 million civilian federal workforce over the next two years. The freeze is expected to generate $2 billion in savings in FY 2011, the White House said.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said her union is “mindful of our nation’s economic circumstances,” but that it was “very disappointed” with Obama’s announcement. Kelley said that the earlier 1.4 percent raise that had been under consideration for 2011 is “reflective of the average increase in wages in the private sector.”

“Our government needs to be able to hire and keep talented and skilled employees, and worsening federal pay will make that much more difficult.” Kelley said.

The Federal Managers Association, also noting that the freeze would act “as a major deterrent to potential hires with critical expertise,” said that feds are not immune to the economic woes experienced by other Americans—civil servants are facing an average 7 percent increase in health insurance premiums in 2011, and many in the metro D.C. area will experience a significant cut in the transit benefits at the end of this year. “By instituting a blanket pay freeze, the take home pay of civil servants will decrease over the next two years, which will not only harm these families, but will also have a negative effect on our struggling economy,” the group said.

Portrayed as a deficit-reduction measure, the White House said the move would save $28 billion over the next five years, and more than $60 billion over the next 10 years because future salary increases would be set from a lower base. The pay freeze proposal would apply to all civilian federal employees in Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012, including those in various alternative pay plans and those working at DoD, according to the Nov. 29 White House announcement. The uniformed military would not be affected.

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) President Gregory Junemann said his union also was disappointed with the freeze, but said it should be part of a joint effort to spread around the financial pain.

“IFPTE members fully realize the dire economic straights that our nation is currently facing, and the high unemployment numbers facing private sector workers” Junemann said. “So, with this comes an expectation that federal workers are not being asked to sacrifice in order to subsidize the very policies that got our nation in this economic mess to begin with.”

The Obama proposal—which must be approved by Congress—is similar to one released earlier this month by the co-chairmen of the president’s bipartisan deficit commission. That proposal would institute a three-year cross-agency freeze on federal pay, including salaries and those benefits linked to pay raises. The freeze would partly compensate for the past three years in which federal workers have seen their wages increase. Federal civilian employees received a 2.0 percent raise in 2010, a 3.9 percent raise in 2009, and a 3.5 percent raise in 2008. Savings are estimated at 15.1 billion by 2015.

The focus on federal pay has been stoked by a series of newspaper stories in the past few months. Earlier this month, USA Today reported that about 82,000 federal civil servants were earning more than $150,000 a year and that the number of big earners had increased dramatically over the past five years. Using Office of Personnel Management data, the newspaper claimed that a large number of federal workers were paid significant salaries, and that the high-pay group had grown from 7,420 in 2005 to 82,034 in 2010.

To see more, go to: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/11/29/fact-sheet-cutting-deficit-freezing-federal-employee-pay, www.nteu.org, www.fedmanagers.org or www.ifpte.org.

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