Obama OKs pay raise for federal civilian, uniformed employees

President Barack Obama is exercising his authority to give federal civilian employees and uniformed service members a pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday authorizing across-the-board and locality pay adjustments .

“Specifically, I have determined that for 2016, across-the-board pay increases will be 1.0 percent,” he wrote. “Also, I will make a decision by November 30, 2015, regarding an alternative plan for locality payments under 5 U.S.C. 5304a. The alternative plan for locality payments will be limited so that the total combined cost of the 1.0 percent across-the-board base pay increase and the varying locality pay increases will be 1.3 percent of basic payroll, consistent with the assumption in my 2016 Budget. These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified Federal workforce.”

In addition, Obama sent a similar letter to congressional leaders saying he was authorizing a pay adjustment for uniformed service members.

“I have determined it is appropriate to exercise my authority under section 1009(e) of title 37, United States Code, to set the 2016 monthly basic pay increase at 1.3 percent,” Obama wrote, in the second letter. “This decision is consistent with my fiscal year 2016 Budget and it will not materially affect the Federal Government’s ability to attract and retain well-qualified members for the uniformed services.”

Congress has yet to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The current budget runs through Sept. 30. Lawmakers need to approve a budget that the President will sign in order to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Tony Reardon, the new president of the National Treasury Employees Union, issued a press release praising, with some reservations, the pay raise.

“While any increase in pay is needed and welcomed, the federal workforce deserves a higher raise,” he said. “An overall increase of 1.3 percent is simply not enough and is not in line with current economic data. Federal salaries have increased by just 2 percent in the last five years, which includes the three-year freeze. In that time, private-sector wages rose 8.3 percent, according to the Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index.”

Reardon promised that his union would continue to push for a higher raise, one that would make federal salaries comparable with those in the private sector.

“Federal employees have not had a locality increase in five years and are falling further and further behind in high employment cost areas,” he said. “NTEU has historically supported locality pay and was pleased that the President’s Pay Agent approved 13 new locality areas NTEU had pressed for in its work on the Federal Salary Council.”

Last May, the Office of Personnel Management proposed the establishment of 13 new locality pay areas, which would address pay disparities in those communities. Reardon said the regulations to establish those new locality pay areas were on track for final approval, so that they could go into effect next year.

“Unfortunately, the 0.3 percent locality adjustment is so small it will have little impact on the large pay gaps in high labor cost areas,” Reardon said.

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