Federal workers in Columbia may experience pay freeze

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | 5:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Approximately 2,300 local residents may not see a raise for two years, after President Barack Obama announced a pay freeze this week for 2 million federal employees nationwide.

“We’ve been frozen for a long time,” Howard Hutton said with a laugh Wednesday morning. Hutton is a general office clerk with the U.S. Postal Service in Columbia.

Similarly, Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Washington D.C., said the national letter carrier service was already in the game. A pay freeze for senior management was announced Nov. 15.

Saunders said that the Postal Service differs from other federal agencies. Its four unions negotiate wages through contract, which means workers would not be affected by a freeze as other government employees would.

The average salary of federal employees in Boone County in 2009 was $51,337, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Public Affairs Officer Stephen Gaither of the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital said reaction to a freeze was expected to be mixed.

While some are surprised by Obama’s announcement, he said, some are not.

An e-mail from the Veterans Administration explaining the economic incentive for the proposal was passed on to local employees, Gaither said.

“The proposed freeze is not a reflection of the excellent work you do for our nation’s veterans,” the e-mail read.

Charlie Rahm, public affairs officer at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Columbia, said it is too early to tell whether the proposal would have an effect on the nation's deficit.

Government spending on salaries is only part of the impact, he said.

Rahm also said his fellow employees seemed to be willing to do their part to help ease the country’s financial woes and would support the proposal's objective.

"We support the president," he said.

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