Unions urge Congress to avoid federal-worker cuts

A coalition of more than 20 federal and postal worker unions and organizations wrote Congress on Tuesday urging members not to cut worker pay and benefits as part of a “fiscal cliff” deal on the deficit.

The Federal-Postal Coalition letter says that federal workers have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction: $60 billion from a two-year pay freeze, $28 billion from a delayed 2013 pay increase and $15 billion in increased retirement contributions for new hires.

“It is time our nation’s leaders found other ways to reduce the deficit than continually taking away from those who have dedicated their lives to public service,” the letter states.

In recent budget talks, Republicans have looked to extend the pay freeze for three more years, and to place limitations on new hiring.

“It is time for others to step up and recognize the need for shared sacrifice.,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said. 

Unions want Congress to look at limiting pay for contractors. The current cap is $763,029 per year; unions have proposed lowering that to $230,700, the salary Vice President Biden enjoys.

“To date, federal employees and their families are the lone group of Americans who have made sacrifices to deficit reduction,” American Federation of Government Employees Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten said.

As the fiscal cliff talks get under way, unions and worker organizations will be looking to key players like House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and top budget negotiator Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to shield federal workers from cuts during the fiscal-cliff talks.

Negotiators are looking to put together a fiscal-cliff down payment to avoid $109 billion in sudden indiscriminate “sequester” cuts looming in January. Mandatory spending such as on farm subsidies and veterans' health benefits are on the table as a possible replacement, along with federal worker pay and benefits.