GAO Staffers Petitioning for Pay Increase

Posted May 11, 2007 at 6:29pm

Just days after hundreds of Government Accountability Office analysts filed to hold an authorizing election to form a union, many are readying to petition the agency for back pay and cost-of-living raises.

Specifically, the analysts are seeking what they say are rightful raises denied to them when the agency moved to a new pay system.

That system “has given us across-the-board increases significantly lower than inflation and significantly lower than what the executive branch gets,” said one analyst involved in the effort, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We just want the same thing the rest of the federal government is getting,” said another veteran analyst who also asked for anonymity.

A GAO spokesman declined to comment on Friday. But in past interviews, Comptroller General David Walker has said the new pay system is fair and effectively measures how much employees should make based on performance.

The analysts hope to submit the petition to the agency’s Personnel Appeals Board with at least 200 signatures by Tuesday. As of Friday afternoon, they had gathered more than 100.

If GAO analysts do file, that petition would follow a recent settlement the agency reached with a dozen analysts who filed petitions saying they weren’t given proper salary adjustments after the new pay system went into effect. The GAO eventually settled by promoting the 12 employees and increasing their pay.

“This has emboldened the rest of GAO,” the first analyst said of the settlement. “There’s a critical mass developing along these various fronts. It’s like a multifront war now.”

If the pay petition is the western front then the agency’s first-ever union is coming from the east. On Wednesday, a majority of the agency’s 1,500 analysts filed a petition with to hold an election to authorize a union.

The election is expected to be held this summer and Walker has said he will not stand in the way. However, he has promised GAO management will make sure the election doesn’t include votes from supervisory employees, who are not legally eligible to organize.

“I support the right of GAO employees to organize in a manner consistent with applicable laws and regulations,” Walker said.

If that effort succeeds, about 1,500 GAO analysts will become members of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, an AFL-CIO-affiliated union that also represents workers at the Congressional Research Service.

The change in pay system is based on a 2004 study conducted by the firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, which found that some workers were overpaid.

In response to the survey, Walker instituted a pay system that divided the workers into “bands,” which eliminated cost-of-living raises for some and capped salaries for others. About 300 employees were affected.

Many analysts said Walker had promised most employees would receive cost-of-living raises, pointing to his testimony at a 2003 hearing on the pay system, which at the time had not yet been given the green light by Members.

“Basically, what we would be saying is if you are not performing at a satisfactory level — that is less than 5 percent of our work force — you are not guaranteed that,” Walker testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. “But if you are, then you will get inflation, consideration for differences by locality, and something on top of that for your performance, but that will vary based upon what your performance is.”

When the pay system eventually went into effect, Walker did not keep that promise, the analysts said.