NTEU slams federal pay freeze

Tuesday - 6/15/2010, 6:25pm EDT

By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) president Colleen M. Kelley today strongly condemned a proposed Senate tax legislation amendment that would cap the number of federal employees and freeze salaries.

In a letter to every senator, Kelley said the freeze was unnecessary and harmful.

Kelley also said the amendment could lead the government's most talented employees to shift to the private sector.

"The pay gap in favor of the private sector is real," Kelley said, "and is a significant factor in federal agency efforts to recruit and retain the high-quality workers they need to perform their vital and increasingly-complex duties on behalf of the public. We should not be taking any steps that make that effort any more difficult than it already is."

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show the current public-private sector pay gap at an average of 22 percent, favoring private employees.

Kelley said this could have wide-reaching implications.

"Its effect would reach Customs and Border Protection Officers, who protect our ports of entry; employees who monitor food safety at the Food and Drug Administration; claims and appeals representatives who deal with the elderly and disabled at the Social Security Administration; Environmental Protection Agency scientists who help protect our environment; and many others," she wrote.

The amendment was proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to the tax extenders legislation. There is similar language in a proposed substitute amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). The House and Senate both have recently rejected other pay freeze attempts.

Rachel Stevens is an intern at Federal News Radio.

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