Pay freeze: What’s the good news?

John Palguta, Vice President, Partnership for Public Service

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

First, the bad news: Federal employees’ pay will be frozen for two years. Plus, funding for agencies is frozen at 2010 levels until March 4.

“So belt-tightening is going to be the operating mode through much of calendar year 2011,” said John Palguta, vice president of the Partnership for Public Service, in an interview with the Federal Drive.

Federal managers will have to determine which areas will need to be cut. Most likely, training for leadership and job skills will see cutbacks, Palguta said.

“What that means is you’re not going to be investing in your people as much as they should be invested in,” he said.

Now for the good news: “It could be worse,” he said.

Palguta pointed out that there could be a government shutdown and a hiring freeze. In fact, the pay freeze “might actually blunt calls for more drastic measures,” Palguta said.

The White House deficit reduction commission recommended that agencies reduce staff through attrition by hiring two employees for every three who leave.

Palguta said he doubts this scenario would happen, but even if it did, “You still have jobs you will be able to fill,” he said of federal managers.

In the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010, more than 65,000 people left government jobs, he said. “Most of the jobs, if not already filled, will be filled,” Palguta said.

“In my view — this is a crystal ball projection — we’re not going to see an exodus,” he said.

Despite the general negative public opinion of federal employees, history has shown that the country needs government employees. In 1981, President Reagan imposed a government-wide hiring freeze. Two years later, there were more federal employees on the payroll, Palguta said.

It set the precedent that “most of the work of government is necessary, most government employees are vital employees, and we have to have them and we have to have the work of government get done,” Palguta said.

Although federal workers may feel depressed about the pay freeze to come, Palguta said: “Brighter days to come.”


Federal pay freeze Q&A