Obama orders pay raise parity for all feds

President Barack Obama gave federal employees a small parting gift by increasing the pay raise for civilian agency employees so that it equals that of Defense Department employees.

Obama sent a new letter to Congress Dec. 8 saying he is directing all agencies to give employees a 2.1 percent pay raise for fiscal 2017. The new order supersedes the one he signed on Nov. 29 calling for a 1.6 percent pay raise for next year when combined with locality pay.

“In my Aug. 31, 2016, submission of an alternative plan for base pay increases, I stated that the alternative plan for locality payments would 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 would be 1.6 percent of basic payroll, consistent with the assumption in my 2017 Budget,” Obama wrote in the letter to Congress. “However, in light of the decision of Congress to provide a 2.1 percent pay increase for military personnel in 2017 and reconsideration of current and projected economic conditions, I have concluded it would be appropriate to revise my original alternative plan for locality payments so that the total combined cost of the 1.0 percent across-the-board base pay increase and varying locality payments will be 2.1 percent of basic payroll. Thus, under the revised alternative plan, the varying locality pay increases will generate costs of 1.1 percent of basic payroll.”

The President’s decision to ensure pay raise parity comes just a day after Washington, D.C.-metro area Democratic members of Congress wrote asking him to increase the raise to civilian workers.

Congress approved a higher pay for DoD in the 2017 Defense Authorization bill that received final approval Dec. 8 and now is headed to Obama for his signature.

While the White House threatened to potentially veto the NDAA because of unrelated issues, the new pay order makes it seems more likely now that Obama will sign the bill.

“We appreciate the efforts of those in Congress and the Administration for making this change and providing this slightly larger increase, which reflects pay parity for federal and military employees. Federal workers deserve this recognition,” said Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union in a statement.

“Federal pay raises over the last several years have been seriously inadequate. This impacts morale and the government’s ability to attract and retain highly trained workers. While we still believe that the 2.1 percent average increase that will become effective in January should be much bigger, we believe parity with the military is an important recognition of how much our federal workforce contributes to our nation’s wellbeing.”

NTEU said Congress could take action to reduce the civilian workers’ pay raise, but the union doesn’t anticipate that happening.

The American Federation of Government Employees also praised Obama’s decision.

“Federal employees certainly deserve this modest boost in their pay, following years of pay freezes and miniscule increases that have left them worse off today than they were at the start of the decade,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. “This pay adjustment will help employees pay their bills, reduce their debts, and cover the everyday costs facing working-class Americans.”