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Hike in contractor exec pay draws union ire

Dec. 5, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
J. David Cox
J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, criticized an increase in contractor executive compensation that was announced Wednesday by the Office of Management and Budget. (Colin Kelly/Staff)

A federal employee union chief is blasting a boost in contractor executive compensation that comes amid reports that a congressional panel is mulling an increase in what federal workers pay toward their pensions.

“We will not stand by idly while contractors get rich at middle-class federal employees’ expense,” J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said at a Thursday news conference. The union supports Senate legislation to cap the government reimbursable part of the salaries of top contractor executives at $230,000, or less than one-quarter the $952,000 limit announced Wednesday by the Office of Management and Budget.

That cap, which applies to fiscal 2012, is tied to what large private companies pay their executives; it represents a 25 percent increase over the 2011 benchmark of $763,000. The new figure is evidence that top federal employees are not overpaid, Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said in a statement.

SEA represents career members of the Senior Executive Service. Criticizing their pay will only drive them to take their skills to the private sector, Bonosaro said, “where they can earn in excess of five times their federal salaries, without being attacked by Congress and the media.”

At the news conference, Cox joined National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley to present a united front against any hike in what federal workers pitch in each pay period for their pensions. According to unconfirmed media reports, the House-Senate conference committee is considering an increase to free up money for other purposes. Both unions are pre-emptively mobilizing members to lobby their hometown members of Congress against such a proposal.

“We’re concerned,” Kelley said.

Also critical of the idea is the House’s number two Democrat, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

“We don’t think that’s good policy,” Hoyer said at a Thursday news conference. Lawmakers have already “dipped deeply” into the pockets of federal employees, reducing not only their current benefits and pay, but their long-term compensation as well, he added.

The House-Senate conference committee has a mid-December deadline to come up with a fiscal 2014 spending bill that could ease another round of sequester-related cuts set to take effect in January. A spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declined to comment Thursday on specific proposals on the table but said the two sides are making progress. A spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, could not be reached for comment.

Whatever the committee proposes would need the approval of both the House and Senate, as well as President Obama’s signature.

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