US federal employees likely to get biggest pay rise in a decade

By on 17/12/2019
The Senate has agreed to an average 0.5% increase in locality pay, bumping up federal employee pay rises to 3.1%. (Image courtesy: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay).

US Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement that would see civilian federal workers get an average 3.1% pay rise in 2020 – the biggest pay increase since 2009. The spending bill that outlines the rise – which was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday and has been sent to the Senate – must be passed before Friday’s deadline if a government shutdown is to be averted.

The decision marks the end of a year of back and forth over the rise. President Trump initially recommended a pay freeze, before backing a 2.6% across-the-board pay increase in late summer.

Under the latest version of the fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government bill, locality pay – an increase in federal employees’ salaries to compensate for the different costs of living across the US and abroad – would rise by an average of 0.5%, bumping up pay rises to 3.1%.

The House-passed version of the appropriations bill included the full 3.1% pay raise but the Senate did not include any language on compensation in its iteration of the measure, effectively endorsing Trump’s alternative pay plan to provide a 2.6% across-the-board raise but no increase in locality pay. However, according to a House Democratic aide, the language in the Senate’s spending legislation has now been changed to include locality pay.

“Federal employees have many allies in Congress and we commend all of them for their persistence in getting House and Senate negotiators to include the average 3.1% raise in their final compromise spending agreement,” National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon said in a statement.

“This kind of progress takes a great deal of effort, and federal employees will always be grateful to those who support civil servants.”

Return to pay parity

Members of the military are also slated to receive an average 3.1% pay rise, marking the return of pay rise parity between service members and the civilian federal workforce. Last year, as part of a deal to end the 35-day partial government shutdown, service members received pay increases of 2.6%, while civilian federal workers only received 1.9%.

The Senate’s recent backing of the 3.1% rise – and its acceptance of various other Democratic priorities – comes in exchange for the allocation of funding to Trump’s border wall.

The bill outlines spending plans for a total of US$1.3 trillion (1.16 trillion). This would be spent on election security, federal gun violence research and on Pentagon, Veterans Affairs and Environmental Protection Agency projects, among other things.         

The spending bill has been approved by the House and is now with the Senate, ahead of Friday’s shutdown deadline. If approved by the Senate, the legislation will be sent to Trump for his signature.

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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