Two leaders of a Senate government oversight committee recently proposed extending the two-year federal employee wage freeze by another year. They also proposed making federal employees pay more for their pensions, reducing pensions for future retirees, and cutting other benefits that all together, including the wage freeze extension, will cost federal employees $60 billion.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, chair of the Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins, ranking Republican on the committee, made the proposals in a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which will recommend budget cuts later this year.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 625,000 federal employees, called the proposed cuts unfair since federal employees have already lost $60 billion because of the two-year wage freeze imposed earlier this year.
The union also wondered why the senators were coming after federal employees so hard and letting government contractors that pad their costs at taxpayer expense off the hook.
“I am shocked at what these elected officials have done to federal employees, while doing little to curb the massive taxpayer-funded bailouts to government contractors,”AFGE National President John Gage said. “Federal employees have sacrificed more than any other group, giving up two years of pay increases to help lower the country’s deficit. It’s time to pass the hat and ask others to pay their fair share.”
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represent 150,000 federal employees, called the Lieberman-Collins proposed cuts a bad idea that will ” degrade the quality and availability of services the American people expect and depend on, put serious roadblocks in the way of agency recruitment and retention efforts, and place an unfair burden on federal workers.”
The Lieberman-Collins proposed cuts include $11 billion in cuts to private contractors, an amount that Gage calls “paltry” given the fact that the federal government spends $320 billion a year on contractors for work much of which could be done by federal employees at a lower cost.
Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii in a letter opposing the Lieberman-Collins cuts points out that two presidential pay agents have concluded that using federal employees costs less than contractors. “It is worth noting,” writes Akaka. “That, not withstanding various studies purporting to show that federal employees are paid more than private sector employees, the president’s pay agent, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, has determined that federal employees are paid substantially less than private sector employees when comparable jobs and experience are taken into account.”
A recent report by the Project on Government Oversight makes a similar point. The report, entitled “Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors,” says that “the government actually pays (private) contractors at rates far exceeding the cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable functions.”
The reports also says that
- private contractors overcharge the federal government for work performed
- federal employees are less expensive than private sector workers in 33 out of the 35 occupational categories reviewed, and
- in one instance, the billing rate of a private contractor was five times higher than federal employees doing comparable work.
Gage said that it was unfair to make federal employees bear the brunt of the cuts while letting private contractors that overcharge the federal government off the hook.
“”Forcing additional pay and benefits cuts on middle class federal employees, while continuing to use taxpayer dollars to pad the million dollar salaries of federal contractors, is outrageous,” Gage said. “It’s exactly this kind of unconscionable behavior that is fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement.”