April 24, 2002
Magda Lynn Seymour
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

OPM Report On Federal Compensation Misses The Mark; Ignores Funding And Fairness

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today issued the following statement criticizing the report by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) entitled, A Fresh Start for Federal Pay: The Case for Modernization:

“Federal pay is too low. That is the problem with the federal pay system, and more funding is the solution to that problem. But OPM has released a virtually useless report full of jargon and arguments for the ridiculous idea that inadequate pay can be addressed by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Merit pay in a zero-sum environment is neither a “fresh start” nor a “modern” solution. It’s a nonstarter that has been a failure wherever it has been tried.

“Simply put, merit pay invites favoritism and favoritism invites corruption. The civil service and its component compensation systems are designed to keep the federal service outside the sphere of politics, favoritism and corruption.

“The plans offered by OPM in this report cast aside bedrock principles of federal pay such as equity, adequacy and stability. They do so in the context of arguing for what is “modern” by which they mean that which is unilateral, non-union and subjective. This approach is disrespectful to federal employees and will not serve as either a practical or productive approach to improving the federal compensation system.

“Pay for performance or merit pay is presented in this report as a simple panacea. But the realities of the federal work place require something more sober. We have an extremely broad range of occupations and industries in the government. It should be obvious to anyone aware of the diversity and complexity of federal programs and agencies that the ability of each employee to achieve a performance rating worthy of a merit pay raise will vary enormously. It is absurd to pretend otherwise.

“The federal government, as an employer, needs to be compared with other large, unionized employers, not the mythical, idealized small private firm. As such, OPM must recognize that the expansion in management rights they envision must be counterbalanced with an expansion in collective bargaining rights for federal employees.

“Finally, AFGE is particularly troubled that a member of the President’s Pay Agent would endorse a report that maligns the quality and validity of the data and data analysis collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I can assure you, as a member of the Federal Salary Council, that there is no shortage of data describing the fact that federal employees are underpaid.”

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