Unions representing federal workers bemoan extended pay freeze

Unions representing government workers are sharply criticizing the government-funding measure approved Thursday by the House, which freezes pay for federal workers. 

ADVERTISEMENT
This is the third consecutive year federal workers have not received a pay increase, and government employees are also facing furloughs as part of the $85 billion sequester cuts implemented at the beginning of the month. 

President Obama had issued an executive order that would have granted employees a half-percentage-point pay raise at the end of March, but that move was overridden by the continuing resolution.

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Joseph Beaudoin said lawmakers were using federal workers as "pawns" in ongoing budget battles.

"Continuing to freeze the pay of federal workers, furloughing employees at the cost of up to 20 percent of their pay, and freezing hiring for critical positions will only ensure that the services that Americans depend on to protect our food, our borders and our skies will be weakened," Beaudoin said in a Wednesday statement. "It is time that we stop treating our brightest and most talented workers as pawns. Federal workers and the American public deserve better than this.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox warned that the pay freeze would make government work less attractive to prospective and current employees.

"Federal employees now will have suffered three years of no pay raises, at the same time hundreds of thousands of them are facing multiple days of furloughs because of sequestration. It’s hard to imagine the federal government becoming a less attractive employer than it is today after this decision.”

Federal pay will remain frozen as part of the $984 billion spending bill passed Thursday morning by the House. Obama is expected to sign the bill into law to prevent a government shutdown.

The White House has said that it objected to language that would continue the pay freeze, but did not issue a veto threat ahead of this week's vote. The bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 73 to 26, and it passed 318-109 in the House on Thursday morning.

Obama is also expected to proposed a 1 percent increase in federal wages for the 2014 fiscal year in his still-unreleased budget.

"This modest pay increase will help ensure that the government remains competitive in attracting and retaining the nation's best and brightest individuals for public service," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT
But the president's proposal has earned him criticism from both sides of the aisle. Federal workers' unions have complained that the president has not done enough to help workers who have seen stagnant wages since 2011.

Republicans, meanwhile, have said that federal workers should continue to contribute to reducing government expenses.

In a statement in January, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) characterized Obama's push for a pay increase as "not necessary to retain talented employees and just wastes taxpayer money.”

“Federal employees have continued to receive promotions and within-grade pay increases over the past few years of the supposed ‘pay freeze,’ and voluntary separations from the federal government are near all-time lows,” he said.

—This story was posted at 2:44 p.m. and updated at 5:17 p.m.