Federal Managers’ Opposition to Pay Freeze Leads to Likely Raise for Feds

We all saw it coming; it took no one by surprise. In fact, it was a mere formality when it did happen, but at the end of August, when the administration formally called for a pay freeze for all civilian federal employees for Fiscal Year 2019, it was disappointing nonetheless. The formal rationale for the pay freeze was due to “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” from an administration that continues to boast unprecedented economic gains. And it came despite the federal workforce already contributing more than $182 billion towards deficit reduction since 2011 through a three-year pay freeze, reduced pay increases, unpaid furlough days, and two increases in retirement contributions for new hires, without any additional benefits. 

As mentioned above, the proposed pay freeze was not a surprise. Fiscal Year 2018 saw a drawn-out government funding battle that moved from one short-term continuing resolution to another, and two brief funding lapses, as well. Short-term CRs drastically hinder a manager’s ability to plan and lead, and federal employees’ ability to best perform their congressionally-mandated missions. Meanwhile, as the government jumped from CR to CR, reports leaked that the administration was not only preparing for a pay freeze for 2019, it was named its most important legislative proposal.

Those reports were never refuted, and materialized in President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal, calling for a pay freeze for all civilian feds in 2019. In lieu of a pay raise, the administration has continuously pushed for Congress to appropriate its proposed $1 billion interagency fund to implement pay-for-performance procedures. FMA is generally in favor of pay-for-performance, but only if achieved through a calculated, tested approach. The administration has provided few details on implementation.

This kind of formal confirmation of a proposed pay freeze would normally be seen as a sign of doom and gloom; the hits just keep on coming. However, it has encouragingly spurred many on to action. The opposition to the proposed pay freeze has been heartening to see. And it has not only been federal employee groups with disapproving press releases, but grassroots activism led by FMA members and other federal employees which has put Congress and the administration on notice. Just 24 hours after the formal pay freeze announcement, President Trump indicated he would consider changing his mind and further study the issue. Several influential members of Congress, including Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), issued letters urging the administration to reconsider its stance.

At the same time, Representative Scott Taylor (R-VA) authored a similar letter, joined by many House Republicans, including Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), opposing the pay freeze and instead advocating for the 1.9 percent pay raise the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to earlier in the summer. Bipartisan support in both chambers for a federal pay raise is welcome at a time of polarizing division.

The tremendous response following the announcement of the proposed pay freeze gives federal employees a sense of optimism, that maybe people do appreciate the work of public servants, and that a pay freeze likely will not happen. As this article goes to print a congressional conference committee is working to iron out the differences between the House and Senate spending packages. The House version did not include a pay raise, but the Senate language did. All of the Senators appointed to the committee voted for the pay raise and more than half of the House members appointed to the committee have expressed support of the pay raise as well. With only a few legislative days left, we are confident Congress will take the reasonable action of funding the government to include a pay raise, thanks in no small part to the overwhelming response to the administration’s push for a pay freeze. FMA will continue to be there every step of the way to advocate on behalf of managers, supervisors, and executives across the federal government.  

Posted in Hear it from FMA

Tags: Federal Managers Association, FMA

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