Below-The-Radar-Raises Targeted

Despite the pending white collar federal pay freeze, anywhere from one third to almost half of all employees will get a 3 percent permanent pay hike in 2011 or 2012.


The pay raises, called WIGs (or sometimes WGIs) for within-grade increases, are based on longevity and satisfactory service. Each of the federal GS (general schedule) grades has 10 steps. Workers get a 3 percent WIG once a year in the first three steps of their grade; every other year in the 4th, 5th and 6th steps and every three years through GS 10 when they are capped.

The Federal Times reported on Dec. 5, that the WIG raises will range from 2.6 percent and 3.3 percent and that the price tag for the WIGs and for bonuses (which are not subject to the freeze) will be worth $2.5 billion.

That, if you are in line for a WIG during the next two years, is the good news. Which is always followed by the bad news, right? Which is…

Having learned of the existence of the longevity step increase, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says Congress should move to block those WIG increases for the next two years. Under the plan the longevity raises would, presumably, be restored once the pay freeze expired. Or, more likely, not restored.

Chaffetz is not the first to tackle the concept of getting paid for time-in-grade. President Jimmy Carter wanted to eliminate the WIG raises entirely as part of his overall civil service reform plan.

Meantime, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has introduced a bill “aimed at cutting the bloated federal government down to size” by eliminating about 20 percent of the federal workforce. Hatch said that his Reduce and Cap the Federal Workforce Act would trim the nonpostal workforce from 1.43 million workers to the 1.2 million that were onboard in 2009.

As part of the deal, the Office of Management and Budget would make public the number of federal workers, and salary of each employee, in each agency.

The cutbacks would impact only agencies that have exceeded their 2009 employment levels. And it would exempt the CIA, FBI, Secret Service and Executive Office of the President. Once the 2009 levels are reached, under the Hatch bill, agencies would have to hold jobs at that level, meaning nobody could be hired unless another employee was fired, retired or headed for the last roundup.

Ironically, Utah with 2.7 million residents, has more than its share of federal workers. There are about 33,000 feds in the state. Most are with Defense (14,000 plus) with a large presence (46,000) in Salt Lake City and Ogden where the IRS has a major facility. The US Postal Service, with 5,100 workers in Utah, is not mentioned in the job rollback.

Health Insurance Deadline: Close of business Monday, Dec. 13, is the deadline for picking your 2011 federal health insurance plan. If you do nothing you will be continued in your current plan which may be okay unless it is one of those that has cut benefits, dropped your doctor from its network or raised premiums as much as 30 percent.

Tomorrow we’ll has a last-roundup column to help you choose the plan best for you. For even more detail you can listen, at your leisure, to the last four editions of our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show. Health insurance experts Walton Francis (editor of Checkbook’s Guide) and David Snell, of NARFE, talked in general about the federal health program and answered specific questions that should help you pick the right plan for you.

To reach me:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

MentalFloss notes in its 25 Facts About Your Favorite Christmas Movies that Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal like the kid in A Christmas Story. “Guess what? It is. So don’t triple dog dare your best friend to try it.”

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