Obama Announces Plan to Freeze Annual Pay Increases for Federal Employees for 2011 and 2012


11/29/10: At noon today, the President announced plans to freeze annual pay increases for civilian federal employees for 2011 and 2012. NTEU National President Colleen Kelley received a call from White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, telling her the news this morning, and she raised strong objections on behalf of NTEU.

While the Union is still working to confirm the details, the President’s proposal will call for no annual pay increases for all civilian employees for 2011 and 2012, including employees on alternative pay systems such as the SK pay system at the SEC. The proposal will not affect within grade or career ladder increases. Congress can override the President on federal pay raises, and the Union will be urging it to do so during what remains of the current session.

The freeze is intended to help address the national deficit and growing federal debt, according to Obama. "In these challenging times. we want the best and brightest to join and make a difference, but these are also times where all of us are called on to make sacrifices," Obama said in a statement at the White House. "And I'm asking civil servants to do what they have always done. Play their part."

NTEU members are well aware of the difficult economic times and the large budget deficit, but the Union does not believe that eliminating a modest 1.4% increase for 2011 and calling for a freeze for 2012 is the best way to address these problems, particularly when there continues to be a 24% pay gap between public and private sector pay. Indeed, the savings from this pay freeze of middle class working people in the public sector will make only a tiny dent in the nation's $1.5 trillion budget deficit. This move thus appears to be merely a symbolic gesture by the President.

The country faces many challenges, and experienced and skilled federal employees are needed to help address those challenges. Freezing pay raises across the board for an extended period will likely lead to an exodus of the best qualified employees, however, as older employees opt to retire and younger ones seek opportunities in the private sector.

The Union will continue to update you on this issue and what you can do when more information becomes available. As always, thank you to those of you who are dues paying members of NTEU -- the only organization that is advocating on your behalf in Washington.