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Kerry Announces Enormous Pay Raises for Foreign National Embassy Staff

7:22 AM, May 2, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the staff of the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday as part of a seven-day trip through Africa.  During his remarks, Kerry recognized the work of the foreign nationals employed by the embassy, and he singled out two nationals who recently received awards for their work in the foreign service. Kerry then used the opportunity to give all the nationals who work for the embassy some welcome news: an enormous pay increase of 42 percent (though during his remarks the secretary misspoke and said 45 percent):

It means a lot to me that you came in here today, I really mean that, so that I have an opportunity to say thank you to you. But I’ve also got something special for you. Since it’s a holiday, I’m going to make you feel really good. All of the Foreign Service nationals are about to get a 45 [Footnote: 42] percent pay increase. (Cheers and applause.) And I want you to know – (applause) – it’s long overdue. You deserve it, and I want to note that the biggest applause of the day was for you getting your money, I don’t know. (Laughter.) Go figure. (Laughter.)

Kerry went on to tell the remaining staff that they would also receive a pay raise, albeit significantly smaller than that being given to the nationals:

Everybody else, you will get a much smaller pay increase. (Laughter.) I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. But at least it’s moving in a better direction than it has been in the last years, and I’m happy for all of you for that, that – it’s very important.

Since Secretary Kerry said in his remarks that "[a]ll of the Foreign Service nationals" would be getting a pay increase, it was unclear if the statement applied only to the Ethiopian embassy or worldwide.  In response to an email inquiry, a State Department official replied:

This reference to 42% applies only to the local staff at the embassy in Ethiopia.  After a three year wage freeze economic conditions in various countries around the world have resulted in varying increases to a number of U.S. embassies.  U.S. law requires that embassies compensate their local employees according to prevailing practice.  So while Ethiopia will receive an increase, along with another 75 or so posts this year, there remains a larger number that will not get any increase since the labor markets in those countries do not show that increases are warranted.  The 42% increase is an increase in their local currency. 

As Secretary Kerry closed his talk with the embassy staff, he came back to the pay raise once more:

 I look forward – I’m sure I’ll see you again when I come through here sometime in the future. Can’t guarantee you there’ll be a [42] percent pay increase that time, but please be nice to me anyway.

UPDATE: A State Department official, requesting anonymity, writes in to revise the original statement:

“This reference to 42% applies only to the local staff at the embassy in Ethiopia. After a three year wage freeze economic conditions in various countries around the world have resulted in varying increases to a number of U.S. embassies. U.S. law requires that embassies compensate their local employees according to prevailing practice. So while Ethiopia will receive an increase, along with another 75 or so posts this year, there remains a larger number that will not get any increase since the labor markets in those countries do not show that increases are warranted.”

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