The Professional Services Council is looking for an update to the Services Contract Act, one that may be six years overdue.
The PSC sent an Aug. 24 letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Wage and Labor Administrator David Weil, asking for updates to the SCA's rules for determining prevailing wage rates for federal contractors.
The wages, set by the SCA, are constructed to reflect the rates of a specific locality in which the contract work is being done. The Department of Labor updates those rates through survey data to determine the average and median wages of a locality.
"Think of a prevailing wage as somewhat of an equivalent to a minimum wage," said Roger Jordan, PSC's vice president for government relations. "The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division sets what those prevailing wages are. Going back to 2009, some of the data that they use to establish those prevailing wages came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, called the Locality Pay Survey."
The problem, Jordan said, is the BLS stopped publishing data from the Locality Pay Survey around 2010, when the 2011 Federal Budget eliminated the survey. Since then, he said, the Department of Labor has been operating off of old numbers, leaving wages for contractors lower than they ought to be.
"A lot of the employees working under SCA-covered contracts, they haven't seen a meaningful increase in their wages since 2009-2010," Jordan said. "What our letter is trying to do is to encourage the Department of Labor, to the extent they can, to finalize the new formulas they use to develop the prevailing wages, apply it as soon as possible and make the updates."
The Wage and Labor division's SCA frequently asked questions web page doesn't specifically mention Locality Pay Surveys role in wage determination, but notes that BLS survey data may be used in addition to other data, depending how it interrelates.
The PSC letter also notes that the lack of an update to the SCA wage determination stands at odds with the intent of Obama's 2014 executive order establishing a $10.10 minimum wage for federal contractors.
"That [order] obviously addressed the lowest of the wages, but there has been a lot of discussion around paying a living wage," Jordan said. "One of the ways the administration can raises wages for contractor employees without going through the executive order process would be just to go back to the prevailing wages under the SCA and use existing data to make the determination on whether those wages should be raised or lowered."
Officials at the Department of Labor confirmed that they received the letter and are presently reviewing it.