Local impact of proposed federal pay freeze unclear

"I'm a single mom with two kids, one in college," said Guynn, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1612. "I live paycheck to paycheck, just like everyone else ... Not only will this affect our day-to-day living, but this will affect our retirement."

Guynn said about 650 people work at the medical center, about 400 of whom are represented by the union.

The center serves 1,100 to 1,200 federal inmates, the majority of whom are there to receive special medical or psychiatric care.

A two-year pay freeze will likely prompt some to retire earlier than otherwise would have, Guynn said. If retirees aren't replaced, then the remaining staff must pick up the slack, she said.

"And when you don't have staff here, you are raising the risk that someone will get hurt, whether that's an inmate or staff."

On Monday, President Barack Obama proposed the two-year pay freeze for federal employees as one way to chip away at the federal debt of $13.7 trillion. A two-year pay freeze, he said, could save $28 billion over five years.

Republican John Boehner, the next likely speaker of the House, endorsed the proposal, but also said a hiring freeze should be the next step.

Such proposals would be subject to congressional approval, though the freeze would not affect congressional staff, according to a story by The Associated Press.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 56,000 federal employees in Missouri, not including military employees. As of October 2010, about 2,500 were in the Springfield area.

It is unclear exactly how many of the 2,500 could be subject to a pay freeze; the AP says the president's proposal would not affect federal postal workers, federal court judges or workers or defense contractors.

Federal employees in the Springfield area include not only those working for the federal prison, but those who work at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, and at federal agencies like the Social Security Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to data posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a federal employee in the Springfield area was $62,580 in 2009.

Ted Hillmer, superintendent at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, said hiring freezes have been proposed in the past, but until details are revealed it is difficult to know the impact.

"Would that mean a freeze for all federal employees? Just permanent employees? Would I still be able to hire seasonal?" he asked.

Guynn said she is urging members of her union to contact their senators and representatives.

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