Pay Freeze? We Need To Talk

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.


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.

    “I know this may put me in the minority, but I don’t have a problem with this. Here in Michigan, things have been tough, especially in the Metro Detroit area. It’s hard to talk to a handful of people and not hear from most that they, or someone they know, have been hit at some level by the current economic conditions. With so many people losing pay, jobs, or even their homes, I do not see this as any type of attack or unjustified action(s) against federal workers. To me, I’m just happy I won’t be losing anything that I already have. I have a job and I am thankful for that.” Allen of the IRS

  • “Mike, if we are going to freeze federal pay as a strategy, I suggest that the congress freeze all pay for all US workers! Remember the Wage-Price Board of the early 1970s? And the government wants to hire the brightest and the best?” Mike at the IRS
  • “Hey Mike, as a retired federal employee, we have done without a pay raise once and looks likely again. So what’s the big deal to freeze active federal employees? They still have a job, make good, if not great money (especially inside the beltway), and benefits to kill for. So I say, let them sweat a little this year.” Dale DeBuhr
  • “Nothing new under the sun! When times are good, I’ve been told I’m wasting my talent working for the IRS, could make more money on the outside, yada yada. When times are bad, I have to deal with the envy of ‘how you feds have it made’. That being said, I actually am okay with a pay freeze. There are lots of folks out there, desperate for work and I don’t think it looks good for us to take a raise at this time. We work for the American people; they pay our salary. If they are hurting and can’t pay their own bills, how can I, as an employee, have the unmitigated gall to demand a raise? When most employers fall on hard times, their employees have to contend with pay freezes, pay cuts and God forbid, layoffs. Most employees do understand and will take those cuts and freezes just to keep their jobs.

    “I’m sure you will get the ‘whining’ emails from those feds who believe that we are underpaid compared to the private sector…that’s just part of the tradeoff for working for the government. If you want that higher salary, then please go to the private sector….NOW. Stop whining, get back to work and be very, very grateful for your job and your benefits. A lot of people would be happy to take your place!

    “As a side note, I attended a memorial service yesterday for a co-worker who had only retired earlier this spring after 36 years of service. In the eulogy, his family praised his generosity, faithfulness and ‘when enough was enough’ attitude. The last one was specifically addressing Frank’s apparent contentment with what he had. He had chosen the IRS as a career over the public accounting arena because he valued family life more than money. His salary was ‘enough’ to give his family what they needed and they praised him publicly yesterday for that choice. I was deeply moved and humbled by that eulogy….his family obviously recognized and appreciated the fact they grew up with a husband and dad who put them first over a more lucrative career. I only hope my kids can say half that about me when the time comes!” Dianne

The TSP & Your Career

Today’s For Your Benefit Show (10a.m. EDT) should have something for everybody. Tom Trabucco will be talking about the TSP and I’ll be joining federal benefits strategist John Elliott and host (and CPA) Bob Leins to talk about what’s coming up for feds and how to maximize your career. To listen click here.

To reach me:

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