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Union urges congressional conferees to keep hands off pay and benefits

One federal employee union has gone on the offensive even before House and Senate conferees resume work on contentious legislation that threatens to affect federal pay and benefits.

[Note: This article was changed to clarify details of H.R. 3630.]

One federal employee union has gone on the offensive even before House and Senate conferees resume work on contentious legislation that threatens to affect federal pay and benefits.

Before adjourning in December, the House and Senate appointed conferees to hammer out a compromise on the bill, H.R. 3630. The original bill crafted by House Republicans includes a one-year extension of the current pay freeze, measures that increase federal employees’ share of pension contributions, and the elimination, as of January 2013, of the Social Security supplement, except for feds with mandatory retirement ages.

While Congress failed to come to agreement on that bill as 2011 ended, it nonetheless did pass—and the president signed—a short-term extension of several measures included in that bill, most significantly the payroll tax-cut holiday. While federal pay and benefits measures were not included in that short-term legislation, proposed cuts to benefits and a possible freeze extension are expected to reemerge as major issues as lawmakers work on an H.R. 3630 compromise.

This week National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley sent letters to the seven Senate and 13 House conferees assigned to H.R. 3630 urging them to oppose using cuts to federal employee pay and benefits as a means of offsetting a longer-term extension of the payroll tax cut and other measures in the bill. The union supports a bipartisan version of the bill crafted in the Senate in December which did not include those cuts.

“Many federal employees are not even eligible to get the payroll tax reduction because they are not covered by Social Security,” Kelley wrote, maintaining that “federal employees have contributed $60 billion to deficit reduction through the present two-year pay freeze.”

According to Kelley, the House version of the proposed legislation—if it prevailed—would result in federal employees contributing another $65 billion through cuts to pay and benefits.

“Federal employees are working with severely limited resources,” Kelley wrote. “To ask them to bear such a disproportionate additional burden is unfair and unacceptable.”

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