Union Argues Against Changes to Commissary Worker Status

Commissary employees are currently paid on the government services (GS) or wage grade (WG) government compensation systems, depending on their job. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), a group tasked by Congress with examining military benefits, suggested earlier this year that commissary employees be moved from those systems to non-appropriated funds (NAF) status as a cost savings measure.

A government employee union says moving forward with a such a plan “raises profound concerns for civilian employees.”

GS and WG employees, such as commissary workers, are paid through taxpayer fueled funding. NAF workers, on the other hand, are paid through funds earned through revenue. For example, Morale, Welfare and Recreation employees are NAF workers paid through the revenue brought in by MWR programs and the exchange systems.

But the source of the funding for employees isn’t the only difference between NAF and GS or WG workers. GS and WG workers are paid on different pay tables, sometimes in higher amounts, and qualify for different benefit packages than their NAF counterparts.

Beth Moten, the legislative and political director for the employee union the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), says “Converting [Defense Commissary Agency] employees to NAF status will cause significant hardship for the agency’s workforce.”

The difference in funding and pay tables is what Moten believes will be hurtful to commissary employees. The starting salary for a NAF employee commissary cashier in Charleston, South Carolina, for example, would be 47 percent below that of the current starting salary of a DeCA cashier in the GS system. Even the highest paid NAF worker would make 10 percent less. “In other words, NAF-ing the DeCA workforce means a whopping pay cut for many employees doing the same work,” Moten said.

Benefits would also suffer, Moten stated. NAF employees receive different healthcare with fewer options than GS and WG workers, have lower employee retirement contribution and a higher retirement age. They also are not as protected against job loss and are not subject to formal reduction in force procedures. As NAF workers their jobs could also be easily outsourced to contractors.

DeCA officials have not commented on recommended changes commissary changes.


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