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Debt deal should spare employee pay and benefits, labor coalition urges

Nov. 26, 2012 - 05:48PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The Obama administration and members of Congress are resuming talks this week on how to avoid scheduled automatic budget cuts by coming up with another way to reduce red ink in the long term.
The Obama administration and members of Congress are resuming talks this week on how to avoid scheduled automatic budget cuts by coming up with another way to reduce red ink in the long term. (STAFF)

Federal employees should be spared further reductions in pay and benefits, a labor coalition told congressional leaders Monday.

“Federal workers have not only answered the call to public service, but their individual sacrifices have been significant,” the Federal Workers Alliance, a group of 20 unions, said in a letter. Although the alliance agrees with the need to avoid across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 2, it urged Congress to do so “without any further impact to federal employees.”

Over 10 years, for example, the freeze on federal base pay scales in 2011 and 2012 will cost employees $60 billion in lost earnings, while an increase in pension contributions for federal employees hired after next month amounts to another $15 billion, according to the letter.

After a week-long Thanksgiving break, the Obama administration and members of Congress are resuming talks this week on how to avoid the cuts by coming up with another way to reduce red ink in the long term. Unions are worried that employee compensation could be a target; one idea broached by the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission in 2010 would tie employees’ pensions to their five highest-earning years, instead of the high-three system now in place. In the Monday letter, the alliance disputed the notion that the federal pension program is “extravagant” in comparison with what’s available at private businesses.

“In reality the overwhelming majority of federal workers receive very modest defined pensions under the Federal Employee[s] Retirement System,” the letter said.

The alliance’s members include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the National Federation of Federal Employees. Neither of the two largest federal employee unions — the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union — belongs to the group.

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