Federal Wage Gap with Private Sector Hurting Government

Press Release November 6, 2019

Washington D.C. – Federal employees on average earn 26.71 percent less than their counterparts in the private sector, according to new figures released by the Federal Salary Council.

The council, which includes NTEU National President Tony Reardon, heard alarming testimony Tuesday from federal agencies that are having trouble hiring because of the disparity.

“The pay gap is real, and it has having real consequences in cities and towns across America,” Reardon said. “Important federal jobs go unfilled because skilled workers can make more money in the private sector, which hurts the government’s ability to serve taxpayers.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council heard pleas from federal agency representatives in multiple regions asking to be designated a locality pay area so they could offer increased federal salaries to help counter high costs of living or acutely competitive local job environments.

The Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System said they can’t get qualified people to apply for vacancies because the competition in research and health care is so intense. Agencies in Charleston, S.C., have qualified applicants turn them down because the salary is too low for them to live in the popular coastal area. In Atlantic City, the FBI is having trouble filling slots in their field office because of low pay. And at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., the Bureau of Prisons can’t compete with the salaries at the nearby Mayo Clinic.

“Approving a 3.1 percent pay raise and adding more locality pay areas is not going to close the gap or make federal employees rich, but it is going to help people afford to take care of their families and serve their country, doing work that is crucial to our security, our economy and our public health,” Reardon said.

NTEU has endorsed the House-passed 3.1 percent average pay raise for federal employees in 2020, which includes a 0.5 percent increase for locality pay. The president’s 2.6 percent raise proposal is across the board, and does not include locality pay.

The Federal Salary Council determines the pay gap using U.S. Department of Labor data that compares the salaries of public and private sector jobs with similar duties.

“The truth is that Congress recognized a pay gap when it passed the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) in 1990,” Reardon said. “Over the years, FEPCA has never been fully implemented and that pay gap still exists and, in some areas, has grown larger and larger. We must take steps to close the gap so federal agencies can attract and keep the talented employees they need.”

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.