Cummings: Fight ahead for federal pay raise

Wednesday - 1/11/2012, 11:29am EST

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

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Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are promising to protect federal workforce pay and benefits. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the committee, said that his party has a fight on its hands if it hopes to deliver on President Barack Obama's promised 0.5 percent pay increase for federal employees.

"What we've found over the past two years is that the Republicans have been bashing federal employees, and they're going to do everything in their power to make sure they don't get that modest, 0.5 percent increase after suffering two years of no pay raises," Cummings told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin Wednesday morning. "So, we're just going to have to fight it tooth and nail."

According to Cummings, not only is the GOP's goal to block pay increases for federal employees, they're also trying to cut the number of federal jobs.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)(AP Photo)

"All that does is do harm to your federal workforce," he said. "Who wants to then come and work for the federal government? We also find that people are leaving because they see that they're not treated properly and they're bashed every day."

"We get these false statements that federal employees are making more money than the private sector," Cummings said. "I don't know what federal employees they're talking about. I know the ones in my office aren't."

One of the things that Cummings and his colleagues have noticed is that when federal employees are eliminated and their jobs are subsequently filled with private contractors, those contractors are costing the federal government far more money.

"Just because we reduce on the size of the federal employees does not mean that you don't increase your cost," Cummings said. "In many instances, surveys have shown that the federal employee does a far more effective and efficient job than the person who's contracted to do the job."

Postal reform promises to be a big issue for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2012. "By the end of the year, [USPS] will have run out of money if we don't do something as soon as possible," Cummings said.

He pointed to the Postal Service's reducing its 700,000-plus workforce by 100,000 over the last several years as a positive effort.

"Still, Chairman [Darrell] Issa (R-Calif.), as we are about to address the postal issues, is saying that he wants to make sure that over 130,000 of them are let go without any kind of benefits exiting package," Cummings said. "He wants some kind of control board to abrogate all of the union rights of these folks."

Federal News Radio's request for comment from Issa was not immediately returned.

Eighty percent of USPS expenses are in employee expenses. To reduce USPS staff, Democrats have put forward their own proposal to allow postal employees to use money that they overpaid in retirement benefits to pay for early retirement.

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