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Unions of two minds on proposed pay increase

A news report suggesting that the president’s fiscal 2013 budget would allow the two-year federal civilian pay freeze to expire on schedule—and give feds a 0.5 percent pay increase—drew a mixed response from federal employee unions.

A news report suggesting that the president’s fiscal 2013 budget would allow the two-year federal civilian pay freeze to expire on schedule—and give feds a 0.5 percent pay increase—drew a mixed response from federal employee unions.

The Washington Post reported the story on Jan. 6.

“The good news is that the pay freeze is ending,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said in a statement, “but I am disappointed at the size of the proposed 2013 increase.”

The union said that the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index—which is used to measure wage growth—reflected annual wage growth increases of 1.4 percent, l.6 percent and 1.7 percent over the past three years for the private sector.

“I believe something more reflective of private-sector increases would have been more fair and appropriate” for federal workers in 2013, Kelley said.

National Federation of Federal Employees National President William Dougan issued a statement expressing satisfaction that administration planned to lift the pay freeze in 2013, but said the union “would have preferred a larger increase as prescribed by law.”

At the same time, Dougan nonetheless welcomed the increase as an acknowledgment of “the magnitude of federal employees’ sacrifice in recent years …”

American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage was less conciliatory.

“After freezing federal employee’s salaries for two years, the Obama administration is proposing a miniscule half-percentage point increase in their wages next year,” Gage said in a statement. “It’s less than half of the 1.2 percent nationwide adjustment employees are entitled to next year under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, which was signed into law by the first President Bush in 1990.”

Gage said the budget proposal “also effectively freezes locality pay for another year," and that the increase “is well below the rate of inflation of 3.6 percent, and will be wiped out by higher costs for health care, groceries and other essential needs.”

Nonetheless, Gage said, “we’re hopeful that this is a positive step that spells an end to the barrage of attacks on pay and benefits for working people and serves as an acknowledgement that attacking the jobs we have won’t create the new jobs we need.”

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