Temporary Employment Reform

The seasonal work of land management agencies is accomplished by a mix of permanent seasonal employees and temporary seasonal employees. Permanent seasonal jobs are preferable to employees because they feature greater benefits and job security (see table of differences). Currently, regardless of how many seasons they serve, temporary employees cannot compete for permanent jobs under the merit promotion procedures available to other federal employees. This barrier causes high attrition, leading to high training costs and a less capable and less safe workforce. It erodes our nation's wildland firefighting and emergency response capabilities.

The Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act (LMWFA) removes a barrier to the career advancement opportunities of long-serving temporary seasonal employees of land management agencies. The bill gives temporary employees the opportunity to compete for agency positions on an equal footing with other federal employees if they've worked over 4 seasons (at least 24 months of service time) and their performance was satisfactory. This provides long-serving temporary employees with opportunity and their employing agencies with better applicant pools. This is a common-sense, good government reform with no direct costs and significant payoffs.

In the 113th Congress, the LMWFA garnered bipartisan support, but ultimately died before it could make it through committee. However, it appears that our hard work over the last several years is finally paying off.

On March 23, 2015, Rep. Connolly reintroduced the LMWFA (bill number is HR 1531) with Reps. Don Young and Rob Bishop as original cosponsors. It was also favorably reported by committee (Oversight and Government Reform) by unanimous voice vote only two days later. Its rapid progress is a reflection of the fact that, during the 113th, we listened to feedback from OPM, the Forest Service, and various offices and used this feedback to streamline and strengthen the bill. Noncompetitive conversions into the "same" job have been dropped in favor of all appointments being handled under existing merit promotion procedures. This makes the bill much cleaner and simpler. In addition, it has been improved by inclusion of a provision to exempt experienced seasonal firefighters from maximum entry ages that apply to inexperienced, off-the-street applicants.

For video of the bill passing Committee, see 3:45-3:49 of the video file at http://oversight.house.gov/markup/full-committee-business-meeting-march-25/, or view below. This video is noteworthy because it illustrates the strong bipartisan support behind the bill. There are smiles all around and Chairman Jason Chaffetz expressed his strong support.

 

On June 17, 2015, Senator Tester introduced the LMWFA in the Senate (bill number is S 1591) with Senator McCaskell.

The following documents provide additional background on the issue and the bill:

News Reports

Most recent update: June 17, 2015

 

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