Senator Collins: Government Should Counter Pay-Gap Claims

Administration urged to fight image of overpaid government workforce.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Federal workers are overpaid, right? Get tons more than workers on the outside do for the exact same job, yes? Even the government's own Bureau of Labor Statistics pretty much says that, according to USA Today.

Well Sen. Susan Collins and the federal HR department, the Office of Personnel Management, say you shouldn't believe everything you read.

Collins, in fact, is pressing the administration to counter recent news stories that say federal workers make up to twice as much as those in the private sector. The Maine Republican says that constituents are apparently irked by the pay gap, and she wants the administration to help her dismiss the claims. "I don't think those points are being made," she says.

According to the labor statistics report, the average federal pay is $66,591, compared with the average private wage of $55,500. That would indicate there's an $11,091 gap.

Collins addressed the "allegation" of overpaid federal workers at a hearing this week with John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management. He took her side, arguing that the report was "not really comparing apples to apples." He suggested that it is wrong to lump all private-sector salaries with all federal salaries, arguing that the federal workforce has become less blue collar and more high tech, requiring more skill and education and, correspondingly, higher pay. "The private sector," he said, "includes service-sector jobs the federal government doesn't have." When comparing "like jobs to like jobs," government workers are actually "behind the private sector," he maintained.

He also said that if federal workers are making substantially more than those in the private sector, something should be done to equal the pay. "If there is an imbalance, then that's a problem," said Berry.

No matter what the pay situation, don't look for federal pay to drop anytime soon. The reason: About 50,000 federal workers are retiring each year, greatly affecting IT areas, meaning that the feds actually might have to increase pay to attract skilled workers.

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