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OPM’s Berry, NTEU’s Kelley to square off against Heritage, AEI

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Two wonks enter. One wonk leaves. (Photo by Chris Lawrence via Flickr, under a creative commons license)

The House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce just sent me the witness list for next week’s hearing on federal employees’ pay. Let’s just say this will be as close to Thunderdome as a federal pay debate can get.

In the blue corner: Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley. They stand by the government’s calculations that federal employees earn an average of 24 percent less than their private sector counterparts.

And in the red corner: James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, and Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. To say they’re skeptical of the government’s pay gap estimations would be an understatement of criminal proportions.

The wild card will be Partnership for Public Service President Max Stier. The Partnership aims to encourage young people to pursue federal and other public service jobs, and has pointed out the flaws in studies purporting to show feds are vastly overpaid. But their experts also say that the government’s methodology for determining the pay gap is highly flawed, and have called for a major overhaul of the system. (OPM pledged to start studying the matter and come up with “ironclad” pay data almost a year ago, but nothing ever came of that.)

OK, maybe the steel cage match talk is a slight exaggeration. But it will be interesting to have the two sides come face to face for the first time. For more than a year, the debate over federal pay has played out in the press and through reports issued by think tanks, and we’re no closer to resolving this issue. We’ll see if both sides continue to dig in their heels and insist their way is the right way, or if they’ll start inching toward a new, transparent way of determining the pay gap that all parties can agree to.

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  1. Skip Says:
    March 5th, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Where else but the Federal government that a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate can earn over $170K in the Department of Labor. Yes, some Federal government employees are overpaid and underskilled. John Berry should really look at the salaries for top officials earning over $150K without a related college degree and/or advanced degree. There is no way a F.I.T. graduate should be making that kind of money in the Federal government.

  2. NormfromGA Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Your FIT/SUNY grad may support your conclusion, maybe not.

    If the individual came in off the street with only a FIT diploma, even in Production Management, and was handed a job paying in the six figures, you are probably right.

    On the other hand, if the individual received the degree, got an entry level job here or elsewhere, and worked his or her way up the ladder through hard work and applicable skills, I have not heartburn about their success at all.

    Getting a degree is an important tool in getting your foot in the door. Usually, and hopefully, it has little to do with your future in business.

    I would much better have a boss who worked their way up through merit, rather than ivy league contacts.

  3. Fedline » Steny Hoyer: Debate over federal pay is ‘bunk’, ‘not legitimate’ Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 11:38 am

    [...] subcommittee on the federal workforce — of which Connolly is a member — is holding a hearing tomorrow on federal pay. It’ll be interesting to see how they touch on these [...]

  4. K Says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 8:38 am

    I’ll agree that there are some federal workers that don’t do as much as they should, but I also will say that is at almost any job. I’ve worked in the Corporate world, as a Federal Civilian, in the Military, and as a Contractor for the Federal government. All of them are plagued by the same issues, unqualified people finding their way into positions.

    I am better paid for my job in the Corporate world and my work is much less hectic then it was while I was working as a Systems Engineer as a GS-11. I have a college degree and prior military service and it still took me two years to find a Federal job at my pay level.

    I think many people talk and base their statements on absurd examples. I also know of a handful of CEOs that started at the ground level and worked their way up after dropping out of school, and others who just became CEOs from the start. Does that make them less qualified? Not always.

    What’s the response? Contract work? Hahaha! Rich! We were paying our first-line helpdesk $28k a year on the contract while the government was paying us $110k a body. Like that’s not wasteful, the same job as a GS-7 wouldn’t be much over $30k and even with benefits still wouldn’t come close to $48k, definitely not $110k.

    Further, this is being debated and Fed workers called greedy, lazy, and overpaid by none other than Congress. “Kettle, oh kettle… you are black!” sayeth the pot.