IT pay bands chafe at FAA

IT pay bands chafe at FAA

BY SUSAN M. MENKE | GCN STAFF

Federal Aviation Administration information technology workers say their agency is giving them a raw deal when it comes to pay.

A union representing the workers has filed a national grievance with FAA administrator Jane F. Garvey for withholding special IT pay increases granted to other federal systems workers last fall.

Not all of the agency's IT workers are covered by its core-compensation pay bands, which differ from GS grades or FAA's similar FG levels. About 400 of the non-pay-band employees argue that they automatically should have received the special IT pay increases approved last year by the Office of Personnel Management [GCN, Nov. 20, 2000, Page 3].

Michael D. Fanfalone, president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists union, has called on Garvey to immediately grant the increases to IT workers not covered by pay bands.

The union's counsel, Mike Derby, said FAA computer specialists represented by PASS 'are being substantially underpaid compared with all other agencies.'

Agency spokeswoman Tammy Jones said Garvey has received the grievance and is working on a response.

Flexible spending

FAA 'has our own [IT employee] acquisition system,' Jones said. 'Managers have the flexibility to set pay for core plan employees at rates that equal or exceed OPM's special rates.' Congress several years ago freed FAA from many management and acquisition requirements imposed on agencies in an effort to jump-start modernization of the air traffic control system.

Former OPM Director Janice R. LaChance in November established special salary increases ranging from 7 percent to 33 percent for the government's computer scientists, specialists and engineers in grades up to GS-12. She said the move would help agencies attract and keep quality IT workers.

Jones said FAA 'has looked at its IT positions and is paying very competitively. Turnover has been low over the last several years, which indicates the agency is already competitive in this field.'

An examination of FAA's conversion table for the 2001 core compensation plan shows that an IT worker at the lowest band, similar to GS- or FG-5, earns $35,100 to $54,300.

In comparison, OPM's special rate for a GS-5 IT worker starts lower, at $30,726, and tops out at $39,949.

On the other hand, an IT worker covered by FAA's pay bands at the equivalent of FG-11/12 earns $42,800 to $66,200. But a GS-12 earns substantially more at OPM's special IT rates: $55,456 to $72,089.

FAA IT workers not covered by the pay bands are getting 7 percent to 33 percent less than the OPM rates.

None of those salary figures includes extra locality pay for certain areas.

A year ago, Garvey and Transportation Department inspector general Kenneth M. Mead testified before the Senate that money needed to modernize FAA's aviation systems should not go to salaries. The agency has been struggling to update its air traffic control systems for almost two decades.

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