Just when we’ve gotten used to something in our military life being stable, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) throws us another curve ball. As military families, we have come to accept change, but there are things we just don’t like having messed with. The commissary is one of those things.
Congress charges the MCRMC to review military benefits and make suggestions on how the government can modernize the military compensation and retirement system. Recommendation 9 in their report is to combine the commissaries and exchanges, theorizing that it will ensure better access and savings for military families. That in itself is a huge topic of debate.
A particular component of that recommendation is that DeCA, Defense Commissary Agency, employees be converted from GS (General Schedule) federal employees to NAF (non-appropriated fund) in order to reduce staffing costs by an estimated $110 million.
What does that really mean? An estimated 16,000 DeCA employees will be biting their nails waiting to find out how their salary will be affected. Currently, DeCA receives government funding and their pay scales are different, and usually higher, than NAF counterparts such as the Exchange. According to Beth Moten, the legislative and political director for the employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), every DeCA employee will see a pay cut of at least 10% based on the scale differences. She gives an eye opener of an example:
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.
Need actual numbers to shake things up for you? Entry-level cashiers in Nevada commissaries are GS-3 employees earning at least $25,000. If their jobs are changed to NAF, their pay would line up with minimum wage, which I Nevada is $8.25 an hour making their salary now only $17,160 a year. They would be doing the exact same job for almost $8,000 less a year.
How would your job satisfaction and job performance change with an $8,000 pay cut?
To make things worse, NAF employees also have a different health care package that has fewer options, the employee retirement contribution is lower and the retirement age is higher than GS workers. Changing their status to NAF will also make their jobs less dependable as they would now be vulnerable to formal reduction in work forces and the possibility of their job being outsourced.
This all sounds terrible, right? You bet. The strain of this change won’t just make an impact on DeCA workers; it will also make a difference in your shopping and savings. If the commissary no longer receives appropriated funds, they will have to increase the price of goods to cover salaries.
In a recent government survey, 92% of respondents say they have shopped in the commissary. What percentage do you think will still be shopping at the commissary if prices are up and savings are down?
This change only looks good in the eye of the government. They would be saving a huge amount of money, but DeCA employees and commissary patrons would be feeling the brunt of it.
This is just a recommendation by MCRMC and hopefully Congress has not been taken in by shiny numbers but will see that military benefits like the commissary are something families deserve to have left alone. We need something stable in this crazy, ever changing life we all lead.
Keep the commissary the way it is and let families focus on more important things.
What do you think of this proposal? What would you say to the MCRMC or Congress?