Democrats propose 8.7% pay hike for US feds; APS staff asked for feedback on pay and conditions: management & workforce news in brief

By on 02/02/2023 | Updated on 02/02/2023
A photograph of US dollars.
Photo by Brett Hondow, Pixabay

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Democrats propose 8.7% pay raise for US feds in 2024

Democrats in both the House of Representatives and Senate introduced legislation last week that, if passed, would give federal government employees an average 8.7% pay rise next year.

The proposed rise would comprise a 4.7% increase in basic pay and an average 4% increase in locality pay – a system by which federal employees in more expensive areas are compensated for higher living costs.

The Federal Adjustment and Income Rates (FAIR) Act, introduced by House representative Gerry Connolly and senator Brian Schatz, aims, Connolly said, to restore “years of lost wages” over the last decade due to hiring and pay freezes, government shutdowns and other circumstances.

“For years now, federal employees have risked their health and safety working on the frontlines of this pandemic,” he said. “They were subjected to the Trump administration’s cruel personal attacks, unsafe work environments, pay freezes, government shutdowns, sequestration cuts, furloughs and mindless across-the-board hiring freezes. Still, our federal workforce serves with dedication and distinction every day. Federal employees are our government’s single greatest asset, and they deserve better.”

Read more: House Republicans vote to make it easier to fire civil servants

Unions including the National Federation of Federal Employees, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association applauded the move.

“The latest report of the Federal Salary Council shows that federal worker pay lags behind the private sector by over 23% – making it difficult for agencies to recruit, hire and retain top talent and hurting the quality of services Americans receive,” AFGE president Everett Kelley said, as reported by Government Executive.. “The 8.7% pay increase included in the FAIR Act will not only reward federal employees’ hard work and help them keep pace with inflation, but it will also help government agencies remain competitive and deliver high-quality services to the American public.”

Read more: Biden to propose the highest pay rise for US feds in 20 years, at 4.6%

Last September, president Joe Biden confirmed that federal employees would receive an average 4.6% pay rise this year, in a bid to tackle “growing recruitment and retention challenges”. It was the largest rise for federal workers in 20 years.

The FAIR Act, which last year proposed a 5.1% average pay increase for feds in 2023, is rarely acted upon. The latest introduction of the bill comes after last November’s midterm elections in which the Republican party secured a majority in the House. The GOP’s focus is on limiting government spending – it agreed to only consider spending bills for fiscal 2024 that would cut domestic agency funding across the board by more than 20%.

Read more: Top trends in 2023: what will governments prioritise in the year ahead?

Australian Public Service staff asked for feedback on pay and conditions

Australian Public Service employees have been asked to provide input as the government works to standardise terms and conditions across the service.

The development comes after minister for the public service Katy Gallagher announced late last year that a policy aimed at reducing fragmentation of pay and conditions across the service would be worked up. It had been an election pledge of the Labor Party, which took office in May 2022 having ousted the Liberal-National Coalition.

Gallagher said the current disparity of pay and conditions across the APS had led to a “Hunger Games approach to bargaining”, referring to the novels and films in which characters are pitted against each other in a game of survival.

In an open letter published last Friday, Peter Riordan, the APS deputy commissioner who has been tasked with leading bargaining for common terms and conditions, invited official to complete a staff survey. “I want to ensure that all APS employees have the opportunity to contribute to the development of this very important process,” he said.

Read more: Australian Public Service staff to receive interim 3% pay rise

The Mandarin, which has seen a copy of the survey, reported that it invited public servants to pick their top five priorities – from a list including workplace flexibility; leave entitlements; pay and pay scales; health and wellbeing; allowances and reimbursements; overtime; dispute resolution; and performance management – and which they think should be standardised across the APS.

APS staff were given an interim 3% pay rise in October last year while the new policies are being worked up. The survey is open until 3 February.

Read more: Australian PM seeks insight from public servants to drive reforms

US federal government launches workplace innovation lab

The US federal government has opened a workplace innovation lab, allowing staff and agencies to test out co-working spaces, technology and equipment.

The lab was opened by the General Services Administration (GSA) – which supports the basic functioning of federal agencies and manages the government’s office portfolio – at its headquarters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday last week.

The lab functions both as a co-working pilot programme and as a showroom for agency leaders to ‘try before they buy’, allowing them to view off-the-shelf technologies and equipment offered by select private sector vendors before committing to purchase them.

Chuck Hardy, GSA’s chief architect, said the key themes of the lab were “agility, flexibility, choice and variety”.

The new workspace – which is part of the GSA’s Workplace 2030 initiative, launched early in the COVID-19 pandemic – includes living room style seating, computer stations, private meeting booths, and formal conference seating. Each area has been created to accommodate a different style of work from informal meetings to crisis response, and is equipped with video call applications and other such technologies.

It has also been built with sustainability in mind and includes solar powered light fittings, for example.

“The future of the office workplace is now. We’re imagining it and building it right here in partnership with both industry innovators and our federal customers,” said GSA administrator Robin Carnahan. “This is a space where agency decision makers and their teams can experience the latest technologies, equipment and furniture that’s designed to empower federal employees to deliver even more effectively.”

The lab forms part of efforts to right-size the federal government’s property portfolio as many agencies and their staff adopt hybrid working long term. Nina Albert, commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service said, as reported by Government Executive, that “the future for the federal portfolio is fewer buildings, but better buildings”.

She added that “the quality of space has to be better in order to entice people. But the most important thing is that people are the amenity that others are seeking most”.

She said the GSA sees the potential for federal government to create co-working hubs across the country that any agency could use.   

Read more: ‘Work is an activity, not a place’: how governments are responding to the hybrid working era

Details emerge of UK civil service job cuts

A senior minister has said that the UK government is to go ahead with plans for job cuts in the civil service due to “budget pressures” – but has indicated that these reductions will be based on “outcomes” rather than on meeting a specific target.

Oliver Dowden told MPs that there will be reduction in central government headcount planned in the year ahead, but did not endorse former prime minister Boris Johnson’s target to cut 91,000 jobs – around a fifth of the total civil service.

Read more: Rishi Sunak halts plan for 91,000 UK civil service job cuts

Asked by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee whether the government was still committed to reducing the civil service workforce, Dowden said “’Yes’ is the short answer”.

“I’m determined to ensure we actually achieve a reduction… and a reduction in budget commensurate with that,” he said. 

Dowden told the committee that “the only difference” between Johnson’s job cuts plan and the current one is that “we will be driven by outcomes”. He added that budget pressures were the primary reason for cuts and that cost savings were “going to force better ways of working”.

Alex Chisholm, the civil service’s chief operating officer, told MPs on the committee that in order to maintain capability as the civil service shrinks, the government would try to protect project delivery, commercial and digital roles, which he said were “so important to future efficiency and performance”.

Read more: Exclusive: experts on the impact of 91,000 job cuts in the UK civil service

Want to write for GGF? We are always looking to hear from public and civil servants on the latest developments in their organisation – please get in touch below or email [email protected]

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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