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Thu, Dec 16, 2004

Report: FAA Pay Experiment Results In Inequities

Some Pay Frozen, Some Resentment In The Ranks

Imagine working next to someone who does the very same job and is evaluated at the very same level -- but makes $3,000 more a year than you do.

At the FAA, they're not imagining it. That's life. In fact, some FAA workers say they're losing up to $5,000 a year because of the agency's eight-year old performance pay plan. The problem may not even be the plan so much as the exemptions to the plan. The Federal Times reports, of the 19,000 or so FAA workers whose pay can be capped, more than 800 of them are already capped out. On the other hand, their coworkers in the same job make more money only because of when they joined the organization or because of the benefits their unions have negotiated with the government.

Woitaszek is a staff specialist at the AFSS in Buffalo, NY. He doesn't belong to a union -- which is why his salary is capped three years before he can retire. The FAA says its market surveys show Woitaszek and his colleagues make scads more than what they'd be paid in the private sector, so there's no real incentive for the government to give him a raise.

"What about the guy right next to me making $3,000 more, doing the same thing?" the 52-year old Woitaszek asked the Federal Times. "That’s the thing that bothers me. I don’t think it’s fair."

"The problem I have is all the exemptions they’ve given out," said Mark Lash, manager of the FAA’s civil aviation registry in Oklahoma City, in an interview with the Federal Times. "More than half are already being exempt by the policy, so why is it applying to us?"

But that may be changing. At a town hall-style meeting with employees last month, Administrator Marion Blakey said she's working on a more equitable pay system. Her Assistant Administrator for Human Resources, Ventris Gibson, says the FAA will begin addressing the issue when it sits down to bargain with its various unions.

"It’s our intent to bring some uniformity to how these matters affect the work force," Gibson told the Times. "Making sure we have a system that’s perceived as fair to all is critical to us."

That effort, however, may be blocked by union negotiators. "The agency isn’t looking at raising the bar for the small group of employees who aren’t getting their full pay raises. The agency is looking at lowering the bar for the large group of employees who are," said PASS President Tom Brantley. "An arbitrary pay cap that’s designed to do nothing but drive wages down, as a union, is something we’re not going to agree with."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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