On March 13, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution that includes language to provide pay parity for federal civilian and military employees in fiscal 2009, as well as significant funds to reduce the backlog of disability determination cases at the Social Security Administration (SSA). The language — which does not set a figure for the salary increase but calls for equal amounts for both groups — was applauded by NTEU National President Colleen Kelley.
The White House budget proposal sent to Congress in February calls for only a 2.9 percent pay increase for federal civilian workers and a 3.4 percent pay boost for members of the military next year. NTEU has rejected the White House figures and is instead calling for a 3.9 percent pay increase for both employee groups.
“Federal civilian employees work side-by-side with military personnel every day to protect our country from harm and keep our government operating at a high level,” Kelley said. “Pay parity is not a novel concept; it is an accurate reflection of the equally valuable contributions that all federal employees make.”
Pay parity also has longstanding and bipartisan support in Congress. President Kelley cited a recent letter sent from a group of key Washington-area House members from both sides of the aisle — led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — to President Bush calling for a continuation of pay parity for federal civilian and military workers. Kelley thanked Majority Leader Hoyer and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) for their leadership on pay parity. “Today’s resolution continues what has been a nearly 20-year pattern of congressional recognition for pay parity, as well as for a fair and competitive pay increase,” Kelley said. “Pay often drives the extent to which the government can recruit and retain a skilled and talented workforce whose members are highly-sought after by private employers.”
The White House pay proposal, she argued, also would do nothing to help close the acknowledged pay gap between the public and private sectors — currently at an average of 23 percent. In fact, it would leave federal civilian and military employees falling further behind their private-sector counterparts.
An NTEU-supported 3.9 percent pay raise reflects the Employment Cost Index (ECI) of 3.4 percent, plus one-half of one percent, which is the formula that has been used in recent years and would allow federal employees to close a little bit of the wage gap.
Also included in the resolution was language to provide the SSA an additional $240 million in funding to help reduce a longstanding backlog of Continuing Disability Review and Supplemental Security Income cases pending before its Office of Disability and Review (ODAR). Kelley called the current wait that disabled Americans must endure unacceptable.
“Disabled Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure and even dying before they receive the disability income checks they have earned,” Kelley said. “This language would raise the SSA’s budget by 8.1 percent over last year and allow the agency to make critical progress in reducing its backlog in pending cases.”