OPM increases salaries for IT systems workers

OPM increases salaries for IT systems workers

Agriculture CIO Joseph Leo expressed concern about losing higher-grade systems workers.

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

Some 33,000 federal systems workers across the country will get pay raises under special salary changes that will take effect in January.

The pay increases will range from 7 percent to 33 percent depending on location, Office of Personnel Management officials said. The plan establishes special salary schedules for three categories of workers that are separate from those of their white-collar colleagues in other jobs.

The raises are specific to job titles: computer specialists, computer engineers and computer scientists. There isn't enough evidence that other systems-related jobs merit raises, OPM officials said.

Recruiting tool

The pay hike will bolster recruitment and retention efforts and help increase the dwindling supply of federal information technology workers, OPM Director Janice R. Lachance said. OPM based the plan, which targets entry-level positions, on agencies' estimated staffing needs and employment trends.

The pay for entry-level workers in San Francisco'where the country's highest-paid federal IT workers will soon be found'will increase from $24,578 for GS-5 workers to $33,000. At the top end, pay for San Francisco's GS-12 employees will jump from $70,202 to $78,000.

The overall net pay increase for any given grade level will be approximately the same in all geographic areas, OPM officials said, but the special rates will be higher in locations where IT workers command bigger salaries.

OPM officials said the pay scales target young-er employees at lower grades because a Chief Information Officers Council report indicated that those are the workers most commonly fleeing to higher-paying private-sector jobs.

The average age of current systems employees was a key factor in the decision to offer technology workers more money. A March study showed that 55 percent of federal IT workers are 45 or older.

'Although we are not authorizing higher pay at grade GS-13 or above, we will continue to monitor the IT staffing situation to determine whether those special rates should be expanded,' Henry Romero, OPM's associate director for work force compensation, noted in a memorandum sent to agencies' personnel directors.

Agencies can request the higher special rates for jobs, grade levels and locations that managers feel warrant higher pay. Information is posted on the Web at www.opm.gov/oca.

Consideration for extending the special schedules will be given only to jobs involving mostly IT work, OPM officials said.

Still, ignoring the pay of higher-grade IT workers is a dangerous proposition, Agriculture Department CIO Joseph Leo said.

'We all know that we do a poor job of documenting our source code,' Leo said. 'These GS-13s and 14s have the source code in their heads. If they walk out, they take the source code to our legacy systems with them.'

Government needs to do something to deter the critical brain drain of higher-grade workers walking out because their pay was not increased, he said.

Lachance said OPM officials expect the pay changes will make the government a viable competitor with private-sector employers.

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