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Federal Employees News Digest : Nov. 5, 2012
November 5, 2012 Vol. 62, No. 17 3 visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com are looking at---ideological---institutions like Cato or the Heritage Foundation, you have to have a natural suspicion that perhaps some of their findings align with their ideological predilections. Often where you stand is where you sit, right? These organizations have an interest in coming up with findings that are not nec- essarily flattering to the federal workforce. We at NFFE instead look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose statistics are used by the Federal Salary Council, which in turn are used to determine the federal pay gap numbers we just discussed. To be clear, some in federal employee unions and think tanks have admitted there is no exact way to calculate federal pay versus private-sector pay, simply because the functions carried out by those in both sectors all too often fundamentally are different. For instance, take an aerospace engineer in the public sector and one in the federal sector---one designs a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but the other designs the next generation of spacecraft for NASA. Yes, maybe they're similar by title, but the nature and level of specialization varies greatly across the sectors. Generally, you get a lot of this kind of apples-to-oranges, wrongheaded comparison---in order to come up with the notion that the average fed makes more than the average private- sector employee. If possible, tell us the basic reasons why comparing compensation for feds with that of private-sector employees presents such problems? Bythrow: Because, first of all, the fed- eral-sector workforce is primarily a white- collar workforce. And that's because so many blue-collar federal workforce jobs have been outsourced over the last 20 years or so. What you have then is a fed- eral workforce that's very different than the private-sector one. About 50 percent have a bachelor's degree. Some 24 percent or so also have a master's degree. In both categories, that's about double the private- sector workforce. Private-sector work---on average---is more blue-collar, generally, than federal-sector work. This often skews things, in making these comparisons---and the result is often pure fallacy, even when studies try to do job-to-job comparisons. Oftentimes, it's an institution [with an interest in skewing things], and to provide context would get in the way of a good talking point. We're in a political season. That's why there have to be people who try to bring all this back to the facts, and clear the air, so that federal employees get their fair shake here. Like the BLS does. What are you at NFFE doing on all of this---on the actual pay gap disadvantaging feds, and the pay freeze? You are making people aware of the sources of information, and that many comparisons are flawed and many "studies" are polemics. But what else are you and other unions doing to end the pay freeze and to try to get more than a 0.5 percent pay raise? Bythrow: We're talking about a two- prong plan here. There's the work we're doing with Congress, and work we're doing with the administration. It's still our contention that President Obama will keep his word---and federal employees at least will get the 0.5 percent pay increase he requested in his budget request last year. We are still pressuring the administration to keep that promise. As far as the other side, the sequestration cliff, goes, this is a much more complex animal altogether. Whether or not the cliff happens, fed- eral employees are caught between a rock and a hard place. If the cliff is here, feds will lose a substantial amount of money, impacting the workforce. Whether those impacts come in the form of RIFs, or fur- loughs, or other reductions in work hours or overtime, all of these will have to be options on the table for federal agencies. And some agencies will move on some of these options, simply because they'll have to in the face of the magnitude of the cuts involved. That's one result, if we hit sequestration. What if lawmakers and the White House negotiate an agreement and avoid seques- tration? Would that likely end up in math that's better for feds than the drastic, auto- matic cuts that would happen under seques- tration? Bythrow: That's not really clear. If they come to a deal to avoid sequestration, there's a proposal from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Kyle (R-Ariz.) ---and a proposal in the House from Rep. [Philip "Buck"] McKeon (R-Calif.)---all of which call for either reducing the num- ber of federal employees or looking at reducing federal compensation in general, as ways to save money, in what they argue is to offset the $57 billion in cuts---espe- cially to offset those defense cuts---that were called for under sequestration. If they came to an agreement like this, on these terms, then federal employees will also suf- fer very much---their compensation, their retirement. Such proposals are being put forth, primarily by Republicans on the Hill. What we and other federal employee unions instead have been calling for is for Congress to get away from unbalanced cuts and come to a balanced agreement, avoiding sequestration---something that recognizes the huge contribution toward reducing the deficit already made by fed- eral employees. Can you summarize the contribution to deficit reduction already made by feds? Bythrow: Remember that the "supercommittee" on the deficit---the Committee on Fiscal Reform---could not come to a [bipartisan] agreement on how to reduce the deficit by the $1.2 trillion sought. Remember that the sequestration continued from page 1 continued on page 4 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com.
Oct. 29, 2012
Nov. 12, 2012