A House-Senate conference committee has rejected an amendment that would bring financial relief for thousands of federal employees in the National Guard and Reserves by bridging the pay gap brought on by extended duty. The union representing the workers, the American Federation of Government Employees, wants lawmakers to reconsider.
The provision by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) would have required the federal government to make up the difference between Guard and Reserve pay and the civilian salary of those federal employees called up for military duty. House and Senate conferees removed it from the bill to provide financial assistance to Iraq.
“It is clearly unfair to ask the men and women who have volunteered to serve their country, often in dangerous situations, to also face a financial strain on their families,” declared AFGE National President John Gage. “The federal government should alleviate the financial problems faced by many federal employees who serve their nation and must take time off from their jobs when America calls.”
Of the 217,000 currently mobilized Guard and Reservists, some 14,000 are federal employees. While these individuals receive pay for the time they are on active duty, the salary gap between military duty and civilian work can be considerable. Many state governments and private businesses already pay the difference between civilian and military salaries for their employees in the Guard and Reserves.
“The potential impact of this needless hardship on the recruitment and retention of the Guard and Reserves, and the corresponding potential impact on national security, is obvious,” said Gage.
Although Senator Durbin’s amendment to allow citizen-soldiers to maintain their normal salary when called to active service passed the Senate overwhelmingly, by a vote of 96-3, it was stripped in the House-Senate conference committee. It has been reported that all of the Senate Republican conferees switched their votes, opposing in conference what they supported on the floor.
“On behalf of the 600,000 federal employees represented by AFGE, including many who serve in the Guard and Reserves,” declared Mr. Gage, “I call upon the Senate to reinstate the Durbin Amendment in the next must-pass bill to be considered by the Senate. Our citizen-soldiers should not have to wait another second in order to be treated with the dignity they deserve. All federal employees who serve in the Guard and Reserves are indebted to Senator Durbin and Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) for their leadership on this important national security issue.”