Obama approves locality pay increases

President Barack Obama on Monday officially backed locality pay increases for civilian federal employees in 2016.

In an executive order issued Nov. 30, the President said the increase — “based on an allocation of 0.3 percent of payroll” — was introduced in his alternative plan for locality pay because the changes that would have gone into effect in January could not be sustained by agency budgets.

“Civilian federal employees have already made significant sacrifices as a result of 3-year pay freeze that ended in January 2014. In January 2014 and again in January 2015, increases for civilian federal employees were limited to a 1.0 percent overall pay increase, an amount lower than the private sector pay increases and statutory formula for adjustments to the base General Schedule for 2014 and 2015,” the order stated. “However, as the country’s economic recovery continues, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course. This is an effort that continues to require tough choices.”

The highest alternative plan locality payment percentages are:

  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California — 35.75 percent
  • New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA  — 29.20 percent
  • Houston-The Woodlands, Texas — 29.11 percent
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, California — 27.65 percent
  • Hartford-West Hartford, CT-MA — 26.20 percent

The increases that were set to take effect in January averaged 28.74 percent and cost $26 billion.

“Title 5, United States Code, authorizes me to implement alternative pay plans for pay increases for civilian Federal employees covered by the General Schedule and certain other pay systems if, because of ‘national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,’ I view the adjustments that would otherwise take effect as inappropriate,” Obama said in his order.

In August Obama also approved a 1 percent pay raise for federal employees for fiscal 2016.

Union advocates said the boost was a step in the right direction, but stopped short of calling the alternative plan a victory.

“While the locality increase is quite small, averaging 0.3 percent, this is a welcome recognition by the administration that federal employees have more than paid their share of helping to reduce the nation’s deficit and cannot endure another year of frozen wages,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. in a statement. “Congress must build on this momentum and provide all federal employees with a meaningful pay raise next year so the government can begin to close the widening pay gap between employees in the federal and private sectors, which now stands at 35 percent.”

National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon in a statement called the pay raise “simply too low.”

“While increasing locality pay rates for the first time in five years is an encouraging step, federal employees remain frustrated,” Reardon said. “After a three-year pay freeze, they got meager 1 percent increases for two years in a row. Now they’re in line for an increase of about 1.3 percent next year. Such incremental raises will do little to narrow the growing gap between federal and private-sector wages.”

The approval comes one month after a final rule published in the Oct. 27 Federal Register, in which the Office of Personnel Management issued final regulations on behalf of the Federal Salary Council to add 13 new locations to those that already receive locality pay increases.

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