March 30, 2003
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6419

General Schedule Gets Bad Rap

(Washington, D.C.)—“Replacing the General Schedule (according to some) is the answer to the government’s self-inflicted human capital crisis, the reason the Bush Administration has had to force agencies to privatize 850,000 federal jobs, and perhaps most absurdly, the best way to make sure the government succeeds in preventing further terrorist attacks. If only they could figure out a way to link the General Schedule with traffic jams, overcrowded schools, and prescription drug prices, perhaps even federal employees could be convinced,” Jacqueline Simon, Public Policy Director for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), will tell Congress.

Simon will testify before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization on Tuesday, April 1, 2003, at 1 p.m. in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

“The respected William M. Mercer Group reports that just over half of the employees working in firms with individual pay for performance schemes consider them ‘neither fair nor sensible’ and believe they add little value to the company,” Simon will point out. “The report says that individual pay for performance plans ‘share two attributes: they absorb vast amounts of management time and resources, and they make everybody unhappy.’

“If performance-based contingent pay is on an individual-by-individual basis, the message is that the work of lone rangers is valued more than cooperation and teamwork,” Simon will add. “Competition among workers in a particular work unit or organization may also lead to a refusal on the part of individuals to share best practices or teach a coworker how to do something better. Not only do these outcomes obviously work against the stated reasons for imposing pay for performance, they actually lead to outcomes that are worse than before.”

Simon will also discuss OPM’s recent federal employee survey. “If federal supervisors and managers are held in such low regard (as indicated in this survey), how will a system which grants them so much new authority, flexibility, unilateral power, and discretion be in the public interest? How will a pay system that relies on the fairness, competence, unprejudiced judgement, and rectitude of individual managers be viewed as fair when employees clearly do not trust their managers?” she will question.

“The current system makes sure that winning a federal job is a matter of what you know, not whom you know. The system makes sure that the salary and career development potential of that job are a function of objective, job description criteria—not a manager’s opinion of an individual worker’s ‘competency’ or skin color, gender, religion, age, political affiliation, or union status,” Simon will add. “Our nation has prospered and our government programs have benefited from having a professional, apolitical civil service that is strongly protected from corruption and discrimination. Introducing individualized pay systems that grant enormous power to federal managers regarding pay represents a grave danger to this protection,” Simon will conclude.

Read Testimony by Jacqueline Simon on Replacing the General Schedule with Pay for Performance.

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