Determining Federal Compensation:

Changes Needed To Make the Processes More Equitable and Credible

FPCD-80-17: Published: Nov 13, 1979. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1979.

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Rosslyn S. Kleeman
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Federal employees' pay is governed by the comparability principle. This is a concept designed to insure employees and the Nation's other taxpayers that pay is equitable and comparable with pay in the private sector. There are problems with the comparability system, and reform is needed. The roles of the parties involved in the system and the problems that proposed legislation will not correct were discussed.

Some of those involved in determining comparability for white-collar employees have been concerned about the President's extensive use of his authority to propose alternative plans. Because of this intervention, it was felt that the program has not been permitted to function as Congress intended. By law, the President may propose an alternative plan when the adjustment is not warranted because of a national emergency or because of economic conditions affecting the general welfare. In addition, the law required that comparability be based on levels of work, yet Presidential adjustments have often been uniform for all grades, resulting in overpayment for some levels and underpayment for others. According to various agency and employee organization officials, the blue-collar pay process was easier to understand and has resulted in fewer disagreements. This has been attributed to a more localized approach, joint participation by both labor and management at all levels, the lack of political pressure, and the fact that this system was not affected by pay caps. Several legislative changes to the blue-collar system have been proposed, leading to disputes between agency and union officials. The proposed legislation would increase the President's authority to adjust the comparability amounts and make it more difficult for Congress to override his decision.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The recommendation is no longer valid. Pay limitations on the annual pay adjustments have created a situation where Federal pay levels are about 20 percet behind their private sector counterparts, making a return to that process non-feasible and alternative plans the only viable option.

    Matter: Congress should amend the law to further limit the President's use of alternative plans to ensure they will be used in situations which are more indicative of national emergency or economic conditions affecting the general welfare.


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