Colleen Kelley Addresses House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Appropriations


3/6/07: The administration’s proposed 3 percent federal pay raise for 2008 — coming in the wake of the paltry 2007 raise, which was the lowest in 18 years — will do nothing to close the continuing gap between private sector and federal pay, NTEU President Colleen Kelley told a House subcommittee today.

“If we are serious about addressing workforce issues,” President Kelley told the House members, “fair and adequate pay is the first place to start.” She called for a minimum 3.5 percent pay raise in 2008 for both federal civilian employees and members of the military. The NTEU leader delivered this message in comprehensive remarks to the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Appropriations, which is addressing a number of federal workplace issues.

On another important aspect of the pay question, President Kelley was sharply critical of an administration proposal to fund special salary rate pay — used in positions that are hard to fill — out of funds appropriated for the annual pay raise. She called this idea “a back door approach to reducing federal pay,” and strongly urged Congress to reject the proposal, as it has previously done.

Along with the pay issue, the NTEU president called the attention of subcommittee members to continuing workforce morale problems caused by the administration’s insistence on turning over as many federal jobs as possible to the private sector.

At the same time, she applauded the efforts of the subcommittee for continuing important privatization language in the final appropriations bill for fiscal 2007. The language modifies Office of Management and Budget rules to give federal employees the right to bid on work. Kelley called that “a step toward equal treatment” for federal workers, and asked that the provisions be made permanent.

Among other matters in her testimony, President Kelley called on the Office of Personnel Management to play “a more involved role” in making sure agencies know what tools are available to them — such as recruitment and retention bonuses — to aid in both attracting and keeping the talented employees they need.

She also expressed NTEU’s “vehement opposition” to White House budget proposals that would increase health care costs for new federal retirees; and, with respect to the administration’s interest in pay-for-performance systems, noted federal pay systems can succeed only when they are fair, transparent, credible and fully-funded.