Pay Freeze? We Need To Talk

Monday - 6/14/2010, 4:00am EDT

You can insult a man's wife, ask a woman if she's gained weight lately or remind the ticket-in-hand cop that "I Pay Your Salary!" and maybe get away with it.

Maybe.

But when you tell even the most docile federal worker he/she is overpaid so it's time for a pay freeze, you've suddenly got a very uncivil servant by the tail.

Last month the House and Senate, by very narrow margins, defeated a plan to freeze federal pay at current levels until at least January, 2012. Many pro-fed lobbyists think Congress will try it again before the November elections.

So what do current and former feds think about a pay freeze? You might be surprised at the reactions. For example:

  • "December 31 is a looking better and better as the date to retire and start really living my life the way I want to. I will have 37 years and change December 31 for computing my CSRS pension. With no or little inflation the past 2 years, it has been a great decision to keep working. With all the deficit spending, we will be going back into a cycle of inflation as the government and private business chase the same dollars to borrow when the economy picks up.

    "Since retires get COLAs and employees only get a 'raise' that usually doesn't keep pace with inflation, December 31 is not the end of the world but the beginning. I still haven't taken leave this year and carried 240 over from last. I have been using credit hours when I need to be off. If the IRS doesn't have a buy-out at the end of the year for Revenue Agents (which they won't), I have created my own. You don't have to go to Ireland to find a pot of gold at the end of a career. These are the best of times if you have been an ant for the past 33 and you now want to fiddle with the grasshoppers." Doug in Denver

  • "After the unions fighting tooth and nail with President Bush for 8 years for every pay raise to include pay parity, last year they laid down and slept for President Obama without a challenge. A pay freeze would truly be proof positive that the unions have totally sold out the people who pay their dues, for political reasons. We suffered during the President Reagan years at 6 bucks an hour without anyone saying 'oh those poor underpaid federal employees'. They actually laughed at us from their corporate high salaried jobs. All I can say is this, after all the years of being laughed at for being a fed employee, then suffering through the low pay having a second job, then to now come out on the other side doing a little better, in this economy, I can finally say, 'I win.'" Signed, Finally making enough to make people mad

  • "During times of high employment and prosperity, the private sector laughs at federal employees' wages. For the most part we lag behind in actual take-home pay, and have to play by a different set of rules. We have to be at work at a set time, and most of us get a 30 minute lunch break. In the private sector things are a lot more lax. While in 'the real world' (I've only been in Gov't 3 years), I've had my share of two hour lunches, and dinners, and gifts paid for by vendors. All of that comes to a screeching halt when you enter federal service. My office, and most of the federal ones I've seen, are very austere compared to private companies. I've been on both sides of the fence, and I'll take the security and certainty of my federal job over the fancy office and 2-hour lunches any day of the week." Newport News, Va.

  • "I'd like to throw my .02 into the fray and comment about the following paragraph from your story, Federal Pay Freeze: A November Surprise?. You said:

      There are more than 20 groups - unions, associations, etc. - representing rank and file feds, managers, executives and retirees. Many, if not most of them, fully expect that Congress will take another shot at a 2011 pay freeze. In some cases they concede that pay-freeze politicians are doing it out of genuine conviction that civil servants in times of high unemployment, furloughs and pay cuts should give a little.