NFFE-Backed Path to Permanence for Temporary Employees Passes House
The Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act (LMWFA, H.R. 1531) passed the House of Representatives this afternoon. H.R. 1531 would give long-serving temporary seasonal employees in land management agencies, including thousands of wildland firefighters, the ability to compete for career advancement using the same merit promotion procedures that are already available to other federal employees. It would also waive age requirements that currently prevent experienced temporary seasonal firefighters from competing for permanent positions for which they may be well qualified. For more information and to follow breaking developments, see the NFFE Forest Service Council temporary employment reform webpage.
This reform has been a long time coming. On July 5, 1993, a tragedy occurred that dramatically raised public awareness of the plight of temporary Federal employees that receive successive temporary appointments, at times stretching out over a period of multiple decades; yet receive no civil service benefits and never gain competitive standing to compete for vacancies being filled by internal merit procedures. James Hudson, a Vietnam War veteran and “temporary employee” of the National Park Service (NPS) who served 8 years with NPS, succumbed to a fatal heart attack after working three eight-hour shifts in the summer heat while maintaining and caring for the Lincoln Memorial.
This high-profile tragedy sparked a flurry of activity. Numerous bills were introduced to address the plight of temporary employees. All died without clearing committee. In 1994, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revamped its regulations and supported legislation to allow temporary employees to compete like other employees under merit promotion procedures. The legislation never passed. The seasonal loophole in revamped regulations that were intended to be an “interim measure” led to a large pool of “permanent temporary employees” without viable career paths. The House’s passage of H.R. 1531 finally gives these dedicated employees hope for the future.
“In over two decades, we have never been closer to achieving meaningful reform,” said Mark Davis, Vice President of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and past President of the NFFE Forest Service Council. “The next step in the process is to move the bill through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) preparatory for action by the full Senate. I’ve been in contact with HSGAC staff and there is interest in moving the bill, so I’m optimistic about its chances to become law.”
“Too many, including thousands of wildland firefighters, have been stuck for too long in dead-end jobs not because of a lack of merit on their parts, but because of flawed regulations that do not recognize their years of service,” said William R. Dougan, President of NFFE. “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. This common-sense reform honors and credits their service by giving them the same shot at career advancement that other federal employees have. We thank Congressman Connolly and supporters for the years of committed work to provide a path to permanence for these dedicated employees.”