How would you feel if you found out you were getting a pay freeze for the next two years?
That's the new reality for federal employees as President Obama announced yesterday a two-year halt to the small hikes that civil servants receive annually.
Almost immediately after the announcement was made, GovLoop members began sharing their thoughts on the news.
"Given how many people I know who have lost their job, or taken large pay cuts, I'm having a hard time getting upset at a federal pay freeze. " said Tamara Saltman, a policy analyst with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Sure, I'd like a raise but other people need it a lot more."
This comment made me wonder if this sense of sacrifice for the common good is more widespread, so I created a Facebook campaign called, "It's Okay, Freeze My Pay!". Within 48 hours, it has amassed 350 "likes" and inspired comments like "It is okay to freeze my pay if this will ensure that my children and others will have a decent economy to live in." One respondent took it a step further: "As a long-time federal employee, I don't have a problem with a pay freeze until things on the outside get better...I could also give up a couple of holidays [if] it would save a couple of billion more every year."
Other responses to the GovLoop dicussion included people like Peter Sperry, a budget analyst for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, who sees the freeze as "more motivation to work hard and qualify for the next grade" and offers "additional opportunities for promotion" as senior employees retire.
This suggestion that longtime feds could settle for retirement sparked Candace Riddle, a standards manager for the National Institute of Government Purchasing to "wonder if anyone did an analysis of a 'buy out' per say of top-level SES'ers who are over-due to retire. Would it have saved more to 'buy' their retirement, or early retirement, and hire lower paid entry level workers?"
The silver lining in a cloudy forecast for feds could be that "this may be a perfect time to make necessary adjustments within the hiring and promotion process," said Lindsey Williams, a veterans claims examiner with the Veterans Benefits Administration. "During this proposed freeze we have changes occurring with the federal career intern program where OPM has 4 months to make adjustments to the program so that it does not violate Title 5, and I also hope the discussion about doing away with KSA's is formally addressed."
For those who are not aware, KSA stands for knowledge, skills and abilities -- key factors that are used by human resources personnel in hiring decisions.
Another common theme in the forum was articulated by Rob Reintges, an IT specialist with the Transportation Security Administration: "As a long-time fed, I'm willing to do my part but why should Congress by exempted. We're all in this together right?"
Federal employees also fear that furloughs may be the next step -- not just losing a portion of pay, but losing their jobs completely. As Judy Kuhn points out, "many local and state governments have given furloughs to their workers and even layoffs. I'll settle for a wage freeze if it avoids those options!"
Finally, you might think that this austere environment would cause young people and prospective job seekers to steer clear of federal employment, but that may not be the case.
Kay Garth, who is currently seeking employment, responded: "This won't change my mind about pursuing my passion within government. The only change I would make is making sure that I fit the qualifications above what they're asking to possibly position myself to negotiate the higher end of that salary grade."
Oh -- and if you are not completely familiar with the pay freeze, GovLoop has created a useful infographic, which I've embedded below.