EXCLUSIVE: Federal government workers make a deal to keep HIGHER wages – despite large numbers still working from home and large numbers of people moving out of DC to cheaper cities and states
Federal employees who work for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have struck a deal with the agency to keep their high salaries even as they work remotely and move to cheaper cities and states.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, GAO has major offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. The agency is the government’s main watchdog that scrutinizes government spending.
In the years since the pandemic, however, workers have maintained their high salaries despite moving to cities with lower costs of living, including Detroit, Michigan, Huntsville, Alabama and Des Moines, Iowa.
DailyMail.com has exclusively learned that the GAO Executive Committee has reached a tentative agreement with dues-paying members of the employee union that includes a one-time grace period that will allow government employees to keep their current salaries if they move or have already moved to more affordable parts of the US, within 18 pay periods.
The agreement is expected to be officially approved around midnight tomorrow and ratified later this week.
GAO chief Gene Dodaro told Congress in April that amid ongoing negotiations with the union, the aim was to ensure pay was “fair” but not “excessive.”
It’s because most GAO employees have already left DC or were hired during the pandemic and have always worked remotely.
They have maintained their higher salaries for more than three years while living in cheaper cities.
According to the preliminary ‘Future of Work’ agreement obtained by DailyMail.com, employees will enjoy ‘flexible working arrangements’, including intermittent local telecommuting and remote working.
‘Currently, employees can generally change offices without any change in their pay. To facilitate the introduction of remote work, this policy will change,” the memo said.
“There will be a specific grace period for employees who transfer to another GAO office or who become remote employees at locations other than their current ODS (official duty station). During this grace period, employees can:
- Maintain their current salary, taking into account the maximum salary for their position/band at the new location; or
- Get a salary calculated using a system that matches the employee’s salary percentile at their current location versus their new location.’
As part of the preliminary agreement, there is a salary calculator that estimates how much impact an employee’s salary will have after the grace period.
According to the calculator, a ‘Band III’ employee – equivalent to an assistant director – makes an average of $150,000 per year, based on D.C.
Under the “Phase 1” grace period, if the employee chooses to move to a city like Kansas City or Buffalo, they would be able to keep their DC salary of $150,000.
During ‘Phase 2’ their salary would shift – but not by much – and is based on a series of ‘place definitions’.
That’s because the Phase 2 spots are tied to GAO field offices and not to local OPM Executive Branch pay scales, which are lower, a current GAO official pointed out.
It remains unclear how other benefits, including retirement benefits and income taxes, will be addressed.
On page 14 of the tentative agreement, government employees would have “extended business hours” to meet their basic needs, Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.
GAO chief Gene Dodaro told Congress in April that in ongoing negotiations with the union, his goal was to ensure pay was “fair” but not “excessive.”
The employee tells DailyMail.com that the provisional union agreement is ‘baffling’.
“This agreement, coming from the government accountability office, does not appear to be the most responsible and best use of taxpayer dollars,” the employee continued.
GAO spokesman Chuck Young told DailyMail.com in a statement Monday: “The potential agreement has been negotiated between labor and management, as required under federal collective bargaining agreements, and is still under review and consideration.”
Congress has stepped up scrutiny of government agencies and their telework policies as we mark the months since President Biden formally ended the COVID emergency.
Republicans say billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on unused federal office space and by workers taking advantage of the White House’s liberal work-from-home policy.
Damning reports reveal that government employees have attended meetings while taking a hot tub, still got paid on the golf course, and attended happy hours while on the job.
According to the GAO, more than 75 percent of available office space across 17 different federal agencies is still vacant.
Federal employees have taken advantage of Biden’s telework policy to work from bathtubs, play pool and opt out of happy hour early, while the passport backlog continues and veterans have to wait months for appointments with their doctors.
GAO is no stranger to political controversy.
A Department of Veterans Affairs worker from Atlanta posted a series of Instagram stories from March from the bathtub with the caption: “My office for the next hour.”
Since the Biden administration allowed federal agencies to greenlight remote work for staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, federal employees have taken advantage of the situation
In May, DailyMail.com obtained leaked internal memos showing that GAO prohibits employees from using male and female terms.
The agency issued the bizarre diktat in October 2022 at the behest of its so-called “chief diversity management officer.”
The “style guide” demands an end to “non-inclusive terminology” and says the GAO’s 3,100-strong army of bureaucrats must “avoid language that diminishes a person’s dignity.”
The four-page rant, which was posted on the GAO intranet, prohibits staff from using words like “man-made” or “manpower” in official communications.