SES Pay Raise Giveback!

The story has been modified from its original version.

222 of the government’s elite Senior Executive Service have been, or soon will be, told they must give up performance-based pay raises awarded them late last year. Government-wide there are about 7,000 career SES members.

The pay hikes, worth several thousand dollars per year in some cases, were part of the regular performance-based pay raise system set up in the SES during the administration of President Jimmy Carter. The SES was created from the so-called “supergrade” ranks of several thousand workers who were in Grades 16, 17 and 18. The top of the civil service is now GS 15 or equivalent.

SES personnel at the Department of Energy were told “with deepest regrets…we inform you that the SES pay increase granted to you on 19 December 2010 must be terminated.”

According to a memo to an Energy employee forwarded to Federal News Radio:

Subject: Termination of FY 10 SES Pay Increase

It is with deepest regrets that we inform you that the SES pay increase granted to you on 19 December 2010 must be terminated. The Department has been advised by OPM that pay increases should not have been made for the FY10 performance cycle. This brings the Department to consistency with all other Federal agencies.

The 19 December 2010 pay adjustment will be cancelled effective 27 March 2011 and you will be returned to your prior pay of 18 December 2010. You will NOT be required to repay the debt, as a waiver for repayment will be requested from the CFO by our office.

If you have been reassigned or converted to SES between 19 Dec 2010 and 27 March, 2011 and a pay increase was approved for the action, we will make the appropriate adjustments to your salary. The salary increase as a result of a conversion to SES or to a position of higher responsibilities will still be effective, but the salary used to compute the increase will be changed to the pre-19 Dec. rate.

You will receive official notice via the Standard Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, that your salary has changed.

An Energy spokesman said OPM directed the rescission of the increases because they violated the prohibition on granting two performance pay increases to SES members within one calendar year. The rescissions were not related to the government-wide civil service pay freeze, the spokesman said.

Salaries of SES personnel range from $119,554 to $179,700.

Pay for rank-and-file (nonexecutive-level) feds ranges from $20,000 at the Grade 1 level (although there may not be any GS 1s left) to $155,500 at the top step of GS 15. Thanks to locality pay adjustments (which were also frozen for two years) feds in Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and a few other cities make more than their GS counterparts in Washington. Feds in Washington earn more than their counterparts in Richmond, Las Vegas, Louisville, St. Louis and other cities. All GS pay is capped at the $155,500 level nationwide.

The Senior Executives Association, which represents the career executives, does not believe OPM took any improper inaction in rescinding the pay raise, said Carol Bonosaro, SEA president.

In October of last year the Federal Times reported that pay raises awarded to SES members in 2009 were the lowest level in five years. It said the average performance-based raise that year was about $4,485 based on numbers supplied by the OPM.

An OPM spokesperson has not returned a request for clarification on the details of the rescissions.

–WFED news staff contributed to this story.

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