January 21, 2003
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Opposes Congressman Davis' Plans To Undercut Federal Pay System

(Washington, D.C.)—“The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 600,000 rank and file federal employees across the nation and around the world, will vigorously oppose any effort to replace the federal pay system with a subjective ‘pay-banding’ system open to politicization, cronyism, and abuse,” stated the union’s National President Bobby L. Harnage, following Congressman Davis’ announced plans to undercut the current federal pay system.

“The Bush Administration’s campaign to dismantle the modern civil service is in full swing, and Chairman Davis’ announced intent to exploit the momentum this campaign gained by the Administration’s narrow win in the Homeland Security Department’s debate over ‘flexibility’ is very telling. The arguments in favor of scraping the federal pay system are so weak, vague, and political that any sustained or serious examination of this issue would condemn the Administration’s plan to failure.

“Eliminating the General Schedule is a crucial component of the Bush Administration’s overall plan to dismantle the civil service. The Administration’s plan follows a two part strategy: First, privatize up to 850,000 federal jobs and make sure that the contracts go to political supporters. Second, eliminate the civil service structure that has worked for more than a century to prevent the politicization of the executive branch. The latter includes replacing a hiring system that awards federal jobs based on what you know, not who you know, and replacing the General Schedule, a pay system based upon the principle of equal pay for equal work, that sets federal salaries according to an objective accounting of job duties and responsibilities, rather than the subjective views of political appointees and managers who work for them.

“The Bush Administration’s campaign has all the usual components, including the publication of a compliant set of recommendations from a ‘blue ribbon panel’ of so-called experts willing to rubber-stamp this highly political agenda. The Volcker Commission, led by conservative former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, merely reprinted a dubious report issued by President Bush’s Office of Personnel Management that was nothing more than page after page of insubstantial name-calling. The General Schedule was derided for being ‘old-fashioned,’ ‘antiquated,’ ‘20th century,’ and ‘like carbon paper.’ The untrue, but not particularly damning, charge that the General Schedule rewards only longevity is repeated ad nauseum.

“The major flaw is not the pay system, but the failure of several Presidents to fully implement the law. AFGE has been trying for over five years to sit down and resolve the methodology on how annual pay adjustments are determined.

“The fact is that the federal white collar pay system, the General Schedule, is a flexible system that has been updated and altered numerous times in almost every decade of its existence. It allows for career development, it allows for special promotions and financial rewards for outstanding performance, it allows for differences in labor markets in different regions and urban areas, it allows federal employees to keep up with those performing comparable work in the private sector, and it allows managers to deny raises to poor performers.

“But most important, the General Schedule pays roughly the same salary for a particular job whether the job holder is male or female, black or white, young or old, union or non-union, Democratic or Republican. And that is what a subjective, individualized ‘pay-banding’ system can never do.”

“AFGE will stand up for the principle of equal pay for equal work and an apolitical, professional civil service no matter what amount of misinformation and ideological hyperbole the Bush Administration puts forth in its campaign to dismantle the civil service. Federal employees and all other American taxpayers deserve no less.”

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