Amid Widespread Back Pay Issues, AFGE Pushes 3.6% Pay Increase for 2020

Categories: The Insider

At the urging of our union, a bill has been jointly introduced in the House and Senate to give salaried and hourly federal employees a 3.6% pay raise next year in recognition of their invaluable contributions to this country.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia.

Our union thanks Sen. Schatz and Rep. Connolly for their leadership and continued support for federal employees across the nation.

“Federal workers are the backbone of our country, maintaining the programs and services that we rely on each and every day,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “One only needs to look at the chaos and disruption that occurred as a result of the 35-day government shutdown to confirm how invaluable our federal employees are to communities and our nation.”

Federal employees have suffered pay freezes and benefit cuts since 2011, losing over $200 billion from cuts to their pay and benefits during that period.

They have also been used as bargaining chips when administrations and Congresses can’t agree on policies and shut down the government. The most recent shutdown lasted 35 days and wreaked havoc on federal workers’ finances. Many will never fully recover from having to take out high-interest loans, borrow against their retirement accounts, or incur financial penalties for missed payments.

Many employees haven’t even received their back pay, adding to their anguish as they face the prospect of yet another shutdown Feb. 15.

Not getting their back pay

Here are some of the back pay problems federal workers are facing:

  • Many people still have not even received their first paycheck;
  • Some workers initially received only part of the back pay they are owed due to a decision by the federal agency processing their payroll to split the back pay into multiple checks;
  • Some payroll processors failed to process certain automatic deductions – including court-ordered child support and Thrift Savings Plan loan payments – saddling workers with the nuisance of contacting each party, determining how much is owed, and making the payments on their own; and
  • Many workers still haven’t got clarity from agencies on when they should expect to be fully paid.

Chaos at various agencies

Some federal railroad safety Inspectors, who ensure the safety of our rail system over geographic areas that stretch between 2,500 and 5,000 square miles, still are waiting for their full and complete compensation for all their time worked, according to Scott H. Hoose, president of AFGE Local 2814, which represents more than 800 employees at the Federal Railroad Administration.

“During the shutdown, federal Railroad Safety Inspectors worked without pay to ensure the safety of our nation’s rail network – inspecting rail equipment, bridges and tunnels, signal and train control systems, highway grade crossings, and hazardous materials, in addition to working with stakeholders to implement Positive Train Control systems as required by law to prevent train collisions and derailments,” Hoose said. “In performance of these duties, several inspectors incurred mileage and travel expenses they had to pay out of pocket. We are working with every affected employee to make sure they receive all the back payments they are owed as soon as possible.”

Employees at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) received their back pay last week in two separate payments, although employees have not been able to verify the information because the payments do not appear in the Employee Express online payroll system, said Ashby Crowder, president of AFGE Local 2578.

Additionally, NARA’s payroll provider – the Department of the Interior’s Interior Business Center – refused to process certain deductions, including child support, alimony payments and TSP loan repayments, while other deductions like dental and vision premiums may be taken out in future checks.

“The back pay payments do not appear in Employee Express, and it’s unclear whether we will have to make separate payments for things like dental insurance premiums,” Crowder said.

The failure to process certain automatic deductions has been a major disruption for employees, said David Verardo, president of AFGE Local 3403, which represents more than 1,000 employees at the National Science Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, National Endowment of the Humanities, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Employees are being told to make those payments straight to the creditor by themselves without the benefit of automatic deductions,” Verardo said. “I am not sure how this will unfold but I am bracing for employees getting unpleasant notices from creditors or law enforcement if they miss their child support or alimony payments.”

Demanding prompt back pay

Failing to make feds whole as soon as possible, as the administration promised it would do, is yet another slap in the face to the hardworking women and men who were used as pawns during this deliberate shutdown.

“Federal employees and their families suffered greatly as a result of this shutdown, and the last thing they need right now is more confusion and chaos over getting all the back pay they are owed and dealing with any unpaid obligations,” Cox said. “Every day workers must deal with the lingering effects of this shutdown is another day of worry, stress, and distraction from their jobs.”

President Cox sent a letter to the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget last week, asking for OMB to publicize when employees would be receiving their back pay. To date, no such schedule has been published.


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