The Federal Salary Council convened on Dec. 17 to discuss issues affecting federal employee pay and compensation. AFGE Council of Prison Locals Local 1217 President Desaray Biernacki testified before the committee on behalf of the nearly 300 members she represents at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Herlong, Ca.
In her statements, Biernacki addressed differences in salaries and the cost of living for FCI Herlong employees compared to the national average, the strain pay disparities have on employees' families, and challenges in recruiting and retaining employees at FCI Herlong. She focused on the areas of Lassen County in California and Washoe County in Nevada, where most of the employees live. These localities are 40 to 60 miles away from the worksite. Her statements indicate that the national average salary for a blue collar worker is $53,198; however, the average salary for blue collar workers at FCI Herlong is $45,797.10.
"These blue collar positions are the correctional officers and recreation officers. The ones that are on the front line. The first to run into a riot [and] don't carry any kind of protective equipment, such as pepper spray or batons. We put our lives on the line every day and are some of the lowest paid government workers," said Biernacki.
Biernacki's testimony also highlighted the financial strain this pay disparity is having on employees' ability to meet their needs and support their families. She highlighted her own challenges in paying bills and providing for her children with a paycheck she recently received as a GS-8 step 5 correctional officer.
The issues surrounding below average salaries and lack of locality pay also hinder the agency's ability to recruit and retain public servants who are able to work at FCI Herlong. Biernacki's testimony includes data on the number of staff transfers and resignations for FY2013 and the information available thus far for FY2014.
"So far in FY2014 we already have had 14 transfers to different institutions and 3 resignations. It is extremely difficult to recruit workers to this area due to the remote location of the institution. With the recent transit subsidy reduction, I foresee the number of staff members transferring to rise drastically," stated Biernacki.
In light of these factors Biernacki makes a strong case for a locality pay area for Lassen County and Washoe County of at least 19.29%. Her testimony provides data that these areas have a cost of living index similar to Miami, Fl. and Atlanta, Ga., which have a cost of living adjustment of 20.79% and 19.29% respectively.
"We walk into danger each and every day we go to work and sadly are forgotten by our country. We deserve to stay safe in our work environment, but most importantly, we and our families deserve a quality of life that we work so hard for every day," said Biernacki.
“As the pay gap between the federal and private sectors continues to grow, it is imperative that the administration do everything it can to address inequities in the current pay system. The administration must move swiftly, without any delay, to adopt all of the Federal Salary Council’s recommendations. Chief among these is adding 12 new metropolitan regions to the locality pay system, expanding coverage for existing locality zones, and restoring the wage sample in the National Compensation Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to measure the pay gap," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., member of the Federal Salary Council.
Photos from the event can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/afge/sets/72157638775625893/