Biden finalises 2.7% pay rise for federal employees

By on 04/01/2022 | Updated on 04/01/2022
President Biden announced the pledge to raise federal civilian employees’ pay in August last year. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order solidifying his promise to raise federal civilian employee pay in 2022.

The order has bumped civilian federal employees’ pay up 2.2%. An additional 0.5% locality pay adjustment – a system by which federal employees in more expensive areas are compensated for higher living costs – brings the total average increase to 2.7%. The raise will take effect this month.

This year’s change exceeds the 1% pay raise federal civilian employees received in 2021 and brings civilian pay up to parity with military personnel. However, it falls below the 3.1% boost feds received in 2020 – the biggest pay increase in a decade – after Congress increased former president Donald Trump’s proposal of 2.6% in that year’s omnibus spending package. Trump had initially recommended a pay freeze.

Responding to Biden’s executive order, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents 150,000 employees in 31 government departments and agencies, said: “Federal salaries still lag behind those of their counterparts in the federal sector and starting in January we will resume the fight for a 2023 raise that will continue to narrow that gap.” 

The politics of pay

Biden announced the pledge to raise federal civilian employees’ average pay in August last year. As explained in a news story by Global Government Forum, the move is part of a highly politicised process around how federal employee pay is set in the US.

Attempts to bring federal civilian pay into line with private sector salaries, such as the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act 1990 (FEPCA), have proposed introducing an automatic formula for setting an annual pay increase for federal employees.

Like many of his predecessors, Biden has avoided introducing the formula. In a letter sent last year referring to the FEPCA, he said: “I view the increases that would otherwise take effect as inappropriate.” The automatic formula has not been implemented once since the Act was first enacted in 1990, primarily due to the high costs involved.

Biden bypasses FAIR bill 

At the start of 2021, two Democrat lawmakers introduced the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) bill calling for a 3.2% average pay rise for federal civilian employees in 2022. This comprised a 2.2% increase applicable nationwide, as well as a 1% locality-based increase.

In a report by Government Executive, one of the lawmakers, congressman Gerry Connolly, commented: “[Federal employees] worked tirelessly throughout a global pandemic, risking their lives in service to the American people… They deserve better.”

The NTEU has said that a 3.2% average raise in 2022 would be merited, and that it would continue to urge Congress to implement the increase across the board, as well as the locality pay boost. However, the union said Biden’s pay raise marked “a vast improvement over the previous administration’s attempts to freeze federal pay”. Over the course of his time in office, Trump made several attempts to impose pay freezes on US civil servants and proposed cuts to retirement and leave benefits.

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

2 Comments

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *