GAO, Union Work Out Deal To Give Analysts 4.5% Raises

Posted February 8, 2008 at 6:29pm

Government Accountability Office employees are close to securing a coveted pay raise, now that their union has reached a tentative agreement with agency management.

It’s a significant victory for GAO’s first-ever union, which has focused on giving agency analysts the same raise as other local federal employees.

Under the agreement, employees who get a “meets expectations” performance rating are guaranteed a 4.49 percent raise. In 2006 and 2007, hundreds of employees did not get a cost-of-living raise at all after Comptroller General David Walker commissioned a study that found those employees were paid above market levels.

Analysts will vote next week on whether to accept the agreement, but union officials predicted an easy passage.

“There are a large number of staff who would have been thrown out in the cold and received nothing in the past and now they are getting a full guarantee of 4.49 percent,” said analyst Robert Kershaw, who sits on the union’s interim board. “They’re very pleased. They feel like the union already has been a great success.”

The agreement also pleases Members who have watched the union’s development and kept tabs on employees’ pay. Last week, several Democratic Members sent Walker a letter asking that he give the 4.5 percent increase.

But there still are worries about whether employees will be guaranteed such increases in years to come, said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.

“We want to make sure that we can codify and reach an agreement so that this issue does not come up in future,” he said.

For this year at least, the agreement seems to be a vast improvement for some employees. If it becomes official, many employees may actually get more than a 4.5 percent increase. That’s because part of their raise is contingent upon their performance rating; a higher performance rating means a heftier raise.

The only analysts missing out on the 4.5 percent guarantee are the agency’s probationary employees, who make up about a quarter of the analysts covered by the union. Unlike other analysts, they already get raises every six months that add up to much more than 4.5 percent. And they will still get the annual 3.5 percent across-the-board increase.

All in all, it’s a good first step to union negotiations, several analysts said. Next comes negotiations for a long-term bargaining agreement that will cover everything from pay to policy. Those could take much longer; union officials indicated that they will address GAO’s controversial market-based, performance-driven pay system.

“There are many, many issues that were purposely not addressed in this short-term agreement,” said analyst Jonathan Tumin, a union board member involved in the negotiations. “That focused solely on the annual adjustment and how to treat people fairly.”

Walker said he also was pleased with the agreement, especially since it does not set the 4.5 percent increase as the base for the annual raise. At other federal agencies, that number is often just a first step, with other raises added on top of it.

“I think we’re off to a positive start. … I hope that this will end up proving to be a win-win situation,” Walker said. But he added: “One agreement does not a relationship make.”