The House-passed measure (HR-1140) to put TSA employees under the GS pay system would produce higher salaries for most and very substantial raises for some, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis.
The measure also would apply to TSA the standard federal employment policies in areas including the full range of collective bargaining, whistleblower protection and appeal rights. The bill now moves to the Senate where its prospects are uncertain in light of a White House veto threat.
TSA employees have been under a separate pay system since the agency’s creation in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, with eight pay levels starting about at the equivalent of GS grade 4.
“Unlike the GS pay scale, TSA’s pay system does not provide employees with regular salary increases, and even longtime [employees] have seen their pay stagnate at or near the bottom of their pay band,” sponsors said in a statement which cited pay as a major contributor to the agency’s high turnover and low ratings in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
The CBO estimated that the 11,000 employees in the TSA’s lowest pay band would be classified as GS-5 and the 27,000 in the next-lowest would be classified as GS-7. That would increase average annual compensation (counting both pay and associated benefits, worth about a third of salary) by about $900 in 2021 for the former group and by about $3,400 for those reclassified as GS-7. Those at higher levels “would receive annual compensation increases averaging about $9,700,” it said.
In its statement threatening a veto, the administration said that “we are committed to providing TSA’s employees with competitive compensation and benefits. That goal should be accomplished, however, through the budget, rather than through a statutory reclassification of TSA’s workforce.”
It pointed to the White House’s recent budgetary recommendation to add the equivalent of another 1 percent of salary to agency salary budgets to be used for performance rewards.