Federal employee unions celebrated this week after learning that a House panel added bills governing firefighter job swaps and blue collar pay zones to the annual policy bill defense.
The House Armed Services Committee brought forward the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, after a 16-hour hearing covering hundreds of amendments. The bill already included provisions repealing the Defense Department’s two-year probationary period for new hires, preventing the Pentagon from hiring temporary workers to perform long-term functions, and reinstating the force reduction system that is primarily based on the lifespan of employees and the preference of veterans.
During the marathon committee meeting, lawmakers approved the addition of a provision, introduced by Rep. Donald Norcross, DN.J., that would ensure that local wages for General Schedule employees and blue-collar federal salary system is calculated using the same local salary card. areas.
Federal employee groups and some lawmakers have long called for parity between local wages for general schedule employees and those in the federal wage system. Although the locality pay zone map for general calendar jobs is updated almost every year, groups have said that the federal wage system map is very out of date and remains almost unchanged from a map 1950s military installations.
Legislation to align the local pay cards of the two pay scales has been introduced in each of the last three sessions of Congress. Adding the bill to the necessary Defense clearance measure greatly increases its chances of becoming law.
Lawmakers also approved an amendment, introduced by Norcross, that would allow most federal firefighters to trade shifts without triggering complex rules governing overtime or lowering wages. The provision is based on the federal Firefighters’ Flexibility and Fairness Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers earlier this year.
Federal firefighters typically work non-traditional schedules compared to other employees, working 24-hour shifts and 72-hour work weeks, followed by longer periods of leave. Currently, if two firefighters want to swap shifts over multiple bi-weekly pay periods, they would see their paychecks decrease for the shift they gave, and they would become eligible for overtime for the shift they added to. their schedule. As a result, many agencies ban shift exchanges altogether and require firefighters to take annual leave if a personal obligation conflicts with their work schedule.
The added provision to the Defense Authorization Act ensures that firefighters who switch shifts over multiple pay periods would not see their regular pay decrease or trigger overtime pay requirements. The Biden administration has already publicly expressed support for the original bill, citing it as a necessary improvement in firefighter compensation while ensuring that all federal firefighters earn at least $ 15 an hour.
In a statement, the National President of the American Federation of Government Employees, Everett Kelley, applauded the inclusion of these provisions in the House’s version of the Defense Policy Bill.
“These measures will directly improve the wages and job security of workers and signify the essential role of civilian employees in serving our troops and maintaining our national defense,” he said.
The bill now goes to the House prosecution for consideration by the entire chamber, after which the bill will go to the conference committee. But it’s not clear whether the Senate, which passed its own version of the legislation in July, will sign the House’s workforce provisions.