Bipartisan lawmakers push 5.1% pay rise for all feds
House lawmakers are trying to address two big issues facing agencies. The latest push for a 5.1% wage increase in fiscal year 2023 attempts to offset rising inflation, while closing the pay gap that federal workers face. The goal is to make it a little easier to hire the next generation of employees.
Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is leading the charge for the biggest pay raise in 25 years, said the raise isn’t enough, but it’s what’s possible . The wage hike will begin to address some longstanding issues for the federal workforce, Connolly told Federal News Network.
The increase is in line with the federal House Income Rates Adjustment, or FAIR Act, which aims to strengthen the federal workforce by implementing a higher general wage increase for federal employees.
In a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, 62 Representatives urged Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), as well as ranking members Kay Granger (R-Texas), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.), to implement the Financial Services and Public Administration Appropriations Bill Increase in Fiscal Year 2023.
The request is half a percent higher than the White House’s fiscal year 2023 budget request. The Biden administration has asked for a 4.6% raise for the federal workforce.
Connolly, the sponsor of the FAIR Act, said the Biden administration’s proposal for a 4.6% increase for the federal workforce is much closer to House legislation demands than it looks. has been in recent years.
“Over the past 12 years we have seen good increases, but we have also seen salaries frozen. We saw no increase or 1%. So our goal is to try to close the wage gap in federal salaries,” Connolly said in an interview with Federal News Network.
The 5.1% salary increase garnered strong support from House lawmakers.
“The federal government has a history of chronic underinvestment in its most valuable asset: the federal workforce,” the letter states.
The lawmakers cite a 2020 report from the Federal Wage Council that says federal employees earn an average of 23.1% less than their private sector counterparts.
“Over the past decade, wage increases for federal employees have not kept pace with the rising cost of labor and living. Additionally, federal workers have weathered multiple wage freezes, hiring freezes, and lost wages following sequestration-related furloughs, including two of the longest government shutdowns in U.S. history.” , indicates the letter.
But there are some problems with a general increase for the federal workforce. Some argue that record inflation levels, now at 8.5%, along with market volatility, could make 5.1% look like a loss for federal workers. Connolly argued that the 5.1 number was higher, but still realistic.
“If you can hit 8.5%, that’s great, but we never hit 5.1%,” Connolly said. “So we picked the number that was a high number, but the one we thought we could hit.”
The proposed 5.1% wage increase has garnered support from federal unions, such as the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE said Congress and the White House continually fail to respect local labor market comparability for federal compensation systems.
“As a result, federal employees are underpaid compared to their non-federal counterparts,” AFGE said.
The implementation of a virtually across-the-board pay increase for federal employees poses challenges recruiting high-quality employees into needed areas of the federal government, such as cybersecurity and acquisition professionals, said Ron Sanders, Chairman of the Federal Wages Council from 2017 to 2020. and the current Staff Director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the University of South Florida.
“Because this salary increase is not targeted, it may be too much for some, and not enough for other professional categories,” Sanders said in an interview with Federal News Network. “The federal government is overpaying for certain categories of jobs and underpaying for certain categories of jobs. The underpaid categories are the most worrisome, as they involve things like cybersecurity, engineers, scientists, and purchasing — exactly the kind of people you’d want to pay market rates.
Sanders added that federal wages are tied to the cost of labor, rather than the cost of living, through the Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index (ECI). The general increase, which became the norm through the Federal Employees Salary Comparability Act of 1990, affects talent acquisition for critical employment sectors of the federal workforce.
“If it weren’t for special pay rates and agencies often had their own pay systems for cybersecurity professionals, the federal government simply wouldn’t be competitive for this type of talent,” said Sanders.
However, as more federal workers become eligible for retirement, raising wages becomes even more important as a way to boost the recruitment and retention of early-career workers.
“One-third of the federal workforce is eligible to retire over the next five years,” Connolly said. “How are we going to attract the workforce of tomorrow if we continue to fall further and further behind in the pay gap?
The latest numbers show that 15% of federal workers are eligible to retire today and 30% will be eligible to retire within the next five years.
Creating a strong pool to hire younger workers is also important, as current federal employees show lower satisfaction ratings with their jobs and pay rates. Notably, survey data results from the OPM 2021 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey showed a 6% decline in salary satisfaction since 2020.
The decline in employee engagement and satisfaction in FEVS 2021 is partly the result of more agencies developing return-to-work plans over the past year. But, lessons learned about workplace flexibilities from the pandemic will also support the recruitment of the next generation of federal workers, Connolly said.
“We’re going to have to incorporate more flexible hours, we’re going to have to move away from a rigid rules-based framework,” Connolly said. “The pandemic has shown us the way to achieve this, and to do so with relative success. What we’ve learned is that we know how to do it, we know how to make it work, and we know how to attract productivity in this type of environment.
To close the wage gap between the public and private sectors, Connolly said internships are another key element he’s considering, particularly in the law on building the next generation of federal employees, also known as the law name NextGenFeds, which would establish an internship and scholarship. center under the Office of Personnel Management.
The Biden administration is also looking to bolster opportunities for agency internships. The FY2023 budget request called for 30,000 internships to be made available next year, including a higher percentage of paid internships.
In fact, retaining those interns and recruiting them into full-time positions is the next piece of the solution, Connolly said. It’s something agencies struggle with and a problem that’s getting worse due to the growing number of federal workers approaching retirement age.
“In the private sector, you look somewhere north of 75% of people who get an internship are offered a job at that company,” Connolly said. “In the federal government, we are looking at single digit numbers. This means that more than 90% of people who get an internship in the federal government have never worked for the federal government again. And it’s a wasted effort.
Connolly said he supports the White House’s boost for federal internships and added that the NextGenFeds Act would give those programs a way to create better pathways to full-time public service.
“We have to combine this with a structured program. We need to create an architecture to ensure that these internships are positive experiences, so that these young people have a good experience and want to consider public service in the federal government as a career path,” Connolly said.