NFFE-Backed Legislation Moves Forward in Congress
Last week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) reintroduced the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act (LMWFA) with Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) as original cosponsors. This common-sense measure is one that NFFE has been working on for nearly five years. After diligent research, outreach and advocacy, the bill took a big step last week as it was reported favorably out of committee.
The bipartisan bill would give temporary season firefighters – and other land management temporary seasonal employees – the chance to compete for vacant permanent positions (seasonal or full-time) under the same merit promotion procedures that are available to other federal employees. Temporary workers must accrue 24 months of temporary service (more than four seasons) with good performance to qualify. Additionally, experienced seasonal firefighters would be exempt from the age limit for entry into permanent firefighting jobs, thereby allowing them to compete for entry into the career ranks. Experienced firefighters are well qualified for leadership roles in fire, and this bill would recognize their service as employees.
Currently, regardless of the number of seasons served, temporary seasonal employees cannot compete for permanent seasonal jobs under the merit promotion procedures available to other federal employees. Temporary seasonal employees also do not receive retirement benefits. This leads to high attrition rates, resulting in high training costs and a less experienced workforce. The current system for seasonal temporary employees erodes our nation’s wildland firefighting and emergency response capabilities.
Under the legislation, employees on temporary appointment at the Forest Service, Land Management Bureau, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Indian Affairs Bureau and Reclamation Bureau would be eligible for internal, merit promotions currently only available to permanent workers. This would benefit roughly 10,000 employees.
“The Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act removes a nonsensical regulatory barrier to career-advancement opportunities for long-serving federal wildland firefighters and other temporary seasonal workers,” said NFFE National Vice President Mark Davis. “The bill would provide these employees with a career path by giving them access to the same merit promotion procedures that are available to other federal employees. Currently, they are denied this opportunity because of their status as temporary employees, even though they may serve in this capacity for decades. We have worked with Congressman Connolly and others for years to provide a path to permanence for these dedicated employees. We are excited to see this bill has earned bipartisan support and been unanimously approved out of committee. We will continue to work with Reps. Connolly, Young and Bishop to see this common-sense law passed.”