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Bush Slashes Federal Workers Pay Raise

Labor leaders complain, but do not challenge "terrorism war" connection cited by Bush as reason for cutting civilian, but not military, pay raises.
WASHINGTON (Nov. 30) - Federal workers will get a smaller pay raise next month because President Bush is freezing part of the increase, citing a national emergency because of the fight against terrorism.

Bush's decision is yet another blow to the civilian federal work force, which has been the target of sweeping changes in the government bureaucracy.

In a letter sent Friday to congressional leaders, Bush announced he was using his authority to change workers' pay structure in times of ``national emergency or serious economic conditions'' to limit raises to 3.1 percent.

Most federal employees also were to receive a second pay hike based on private-sector wages earned in metropolitan areas. But Bush said that increase would be too expensive and ``inappropriate'' at this time.

``A national emergency has existed since Sept. 11, 2001,'' Bush wrote. ``Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending or federal employment to stay within budget. Neither outcome is acceptable.''

The White House quietly divulged the cut in an e-mail to reporters late Friday, the middle of a long holiday weekend in which government and politics weren't likely to be on most Americans' minds.

Military personnel still will receive a 4.1 percent increase and aren't affected.

``This is just another slap at federal employees,'' said Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 600,000 federal workers. The Bush administration says ``they want to recruit the best and the brightest, but they can't even keep the best and the brightest in those jobs now.''

Earlier this month, the administration announced it wants to let private companies compete for up to half of the 1.8 million federal jobs. Also, Bush sought and won broad powers to hire, fire and move civil service-protected workers in 22 agencies being merged into the new Homeland Security Department.

``It's been a tough year for federal employees,'' said Paul Light, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on the federal work force. ``I don't think any one of them will be surprised. It's one of several lumps of coal in the stocking this year.''



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