President Signs Omnibus Bill Containing Key NTEU-Sought Provisions, Including 3.5% Pay Raise


12/28/07: In a number of important ways, the president’s signature this week on the fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill represents a major victory for federal workers and the federal government’s ability to attract and retain talented, experienced workers, NTEU National President Colleen Kelley recently noted.

The president signed the legislation, said President Kelley, despite previous administration objections to several key provisions including a higher federal pay raise, improved rights for federal employees in contracting out competitions, an enhanced retirement benefit for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and a prohibition on a plan to reorganize and downsize Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food and drug safety operations.

“These important provisions ensure that federal agencies can be competitive with the private sector in the battle to recruit and retain in public service talented, dedicated women and men,” said President Kelley. To that end, the omnibus measure provides a 3.5 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees —a half a percentage point higher than the three percent the White House proposed in its budget blueprint last February.

NTEU has led the fight for the higher raise, with President Kelley noting in particular that the meager 2007 federal civilian pay raise, which averaged 1.8 percent, was the lowest in 18 years. “No matter how you frame or address the issue of having federal agencies advance a competitive posture in recruiting and retention efforts,” the NTEU leader said, “fair pay — and reasonable pay increases — are always a major factor.” Kelley called for prompt issuance of the necessary executive order on pay.

The omnibus bill also contains vital improvements in federal contracting rules, one of which extends to federal workers the same rights to appeal agency contracting decisions that have long been available to private contractors.

Another important improvement in the public-private fight for government work is a provision preventing contractors from offering substandard or no health or retirement benefits to its employees as a means of gaining an unfair advantage in bidding against federal employees for such work. NTEU has long been the leader in the fight to level the playing field in federal contracting and in seeking to keep the work of government in the hands of trained, accountable federal employees.

President Kelley also noted with approval omnibus language that provides zero funding for implementation of a new personnel system by the Department of Homeland Security—“It is well past time for this agency to address its serious morale problems and stop trying to implement portions of a regressive personnel system,” she said; as well as increased scrutiny of the merit pay system in the Transportation Security Administration. NTEU played key roles in each of these issues.