Hoyer fighting to keep pay raise in U.S. budget


WASHINGTON -- As federal workers are seeing locality pay increases in their paychecks, Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer is taking steps to make sure next year's scheduled increase appears in the budget.

Mr. Hoyer fired off a letter last week to Office of Management and Budget Director Leon Panetta, stating his fears that "efforts may be made to derail locality pay before it can close the gap between federal workers and their private sector counterparts."

The 5th District Democrat noted resistance to future locality pay raises hinted at in a report issued last year by the President's Pay Agent, which is actually a panel of federal officials who decide how much to raise salaries in 28 metropolitan areas.

"We have serious concerns about certain provisions of the current law, which base locality pay adjustments solely on the results of salary surveys," the Pay Agent's report noted.

Without the scheduled salary increase, the federal work force can not attract the most competent possible workers, Mr. Hoyer argued. "After years of debate about quit rates and competitiveness, the principle of comparable pay for comparable work . . . remains the only legitimate standard for determining government pay," he said in his letter.

Last year, President Clinton proposed delaying the locality pay raise for one year. But Mr. Hoyer, who heads the House subcommittee that apportions money for federal worker salaries, teamed with Maryland Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes to preserve the 1994 start for the raises.

Mr. Panetta has yet to respond formally to Mr. Hoyer's letter, said Jesse Jacobs, the congressman's press secretary.

President Clinton likely will unveil his budget in the opening weeks of this year's congressional session, which begins in late January.

Velazco takes over

Last week, Sheila Velazco took office as president of the National Federation of Federal Employees after winning a resounding victory resulting from a grass-roots challenge to her ouster in 1992.

Ms. Velazco defeated Robert Keener in an election conducted by the Department of Labor after union locals objected to the delegate selection process for the union's September 1992 convention.

Ms. Velazco takes over at a difficult time for federal workers as agencies and departments lean increasingly toward layoffs to achieve Vice President Al Gore's goal of reducing the work force by 252,000 jobs.

Ms. Velazco has pledged to open lines of communication to the members who are increasingly anxious about job security, especially with conflicting signals from the White House and Capitol Hill about how -- and how fast -- streamlining will be conducted.

Ms. Velazco plans to keep locals abreast of union strategies to offer help to locals to forge less hostile relationships with supervisors.

"What they should be doing is to sit down and talk to their management counterparts and say, 'Let's look and speak honestly about what baggage we're bringing with us,' " Ms. Velazco said. One broad-based goal to make partnership run more smoothly in a time of cutbacks is to insist that workers and managers get training about impending changes at the same time, she added.

Her first major formal task will be Friday at 2 p.m., when she will join the presidents of National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees in a meeting of the National Partnership Council.

The council will discuss a range of labor law reforms to rank 1994's legislative priorities.

The meeting will be conducted in the Office of Personnel Management's headquarters auditorium, at 19th and E Streets N.W. in Washington.

The meeting is open to the public.

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