Letter To Sturgell, A Look At Pay To Come
A 10-year, performance-based pay
system used by the Federal Aviation Administration is still
criticized by employees, and may soon be challenged in court.
Tim O'Hara, a 24-year FAA employee, recently sent a letter to
acting administrator Robert A. Sturgell complaining about the
system. He copied the note to 1,000 other employees with the
O'Hara wrote the pay system is "both a myriad and a significant
depressant on the morale of the FAA workforce. Significant
corrections need to be made."
The message came just as the FAA will announce its 2008 pay
increase for its employees.
The Sturgell letter was well-timed for future action.
A group of FAA employees is financing a class-action lawsuit
aimed at forcing changes in pay policies, with O'Hara as the
designated plaintiff, according to The Washington Post.
The campaign at the FAA points out the challenges agencies face
when they change pay rules ... and attempt to justify those changes
Bush administration officials contend linking pay raises to a
higher standard of appraisals will help improve the agencies'
performance. Other newer employees fear they will fall behind the
General Schedule, which provides annual raises.
FAA pay policies are explosive. Raises and pay are catalysts
that have motivated air traffic controllers into unions for
The agency is now drawing fire from the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees, and gets regular criticism
from the FAA's largest union, the National Air Traffic Controllers
Because of union contracts, pay varies from employee to employee
over a performance-based pay program, the Core Compensation System.
The purpose of the core system is to attract and keep new employees
in the system. The problem is that the core system does not
increase pay to those that have hit the pay ceiling. Over 9,500
fall under this category, O'Hara estimated.
The core system's lump sum does not count toward retirement... a
sour point for many of the employees, including O'Hara who
calculated that he has lost more than $6,500 a year in pension
income because of the core system.
In his letter, O'Hara told Sturgell the agency's pay-setting
process needs to be less secretive. The FAA uses market surveys to
help set salaries but doesn't share its methodology for comparing
agency jobs to the private sector, O'Hara said.
The FAA will not comment because of the impending class-action
suit on O'Hara's contention that lump-sum payments and bonuses
effectively reduce pensions.
By many indications, from both without and within, the FAA is a
tough place to work. The agency ranked 204th out of 222 agencies in
a "best places to work" index compiled this year by the nonprofit
Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute
for Public Policy Implementation.
O'Hara criticized the FAA for not revealing the results of an
independent team's results that evaluated the Core Compensation
"I believe there exists fundamental flaws in the process," he
said. "If they want to have some integrity with the workforce, then
weaknesses have to be identified, corrections have to be made. And
this needs to be done."