Executives Get Ready for Switch to Merit Raises

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 14, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Executives Get Ready for Switch to Merit Raises


More than half of the federal work force will be under a very different civil service system by 2009.

The departments of Defense and Homeland Security - two of the biggest federal operations - hope to have some people getting raises based on performance, not on longevity, by January 2007.

If that happens, then this January's pay raise, which will range between 2.3 percent and 3.1 percent, will be the last across-the-board increase that most feds will get. Money that would have been used to give them automatic 3 percent time-in-grade raises will be put into a special merit pay pool. Raises will be based on the performance ratings that workers get from supervisors.

Until now, most members of the public and federal officials have assumed that opposition to pay-for-performance comes from powerful federal unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, or from timid bureaucrats afraid of change.

But it appears that some of the top bosses, the captains of agencies who will be running the new merit-pay systems, are doing some sweating of their own. They are members of the elite Senior Executive Service (SES).

The Senior Executives Association (SEA), which represents most of the top career employees, says there are a ton of problems with the SES pay-for-performance plan. For one thing, SEA says, many executives don't understand it. Other executives - like rank-and-file workers - are concerned with pay banding, in which several grades or levels are bundled together.

Federal agencies are revamping their executive salary structure. Those with certified plans can pay up to $162,100, and those without certification from the Office of Personnel Management still can pay up to $149,200.

Many rank-and-file feds fear that leaving a system in which raises are based on job ratings will lead to a return to the spoils system, under which raises were given to bosses' pet employees, buddies, romantic interests or political cronies. That is something the executives fear as well.

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Executives Get Ready for Switch to Merit Raises


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