Fire FightersJohn Sanders
Congress had been working to include new reforms to transform the previously existing federal firefighter’s compensation as included in the bipartisan infrastructure law. These reforms include increasing the overall pay of firefighters, especially in locations with low job recruitment and retainment. The idea is to increase their income by $20,000 annually or 50% of their current salary, whichever is lower.
Following this, the President announced further pay rises and the implementation of a framework that will increase and improve compensation. The goal is to encourage more successful recruitment and increase retention.
This set of improvements came after the National Federation of Federal Employees petitioned the state to approve a pay raise for all federal firefighters in May 2021. The move was necessary to combat an increasingly growing staff shortage against wildfires. The White House agreed and dealt with the essential legalities to make these reforms retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021. Implementation of the changes started in June 2021, with firefighters looking at a pay raise and installments of back pay throughout the next two months.
$600 Million are assigned to cater to the pay increase. The bipartisan infrastructure law will cover the costs until the end of the fiscal year 2023. Despite these changes, the reforms are not permanent. The statements by Biden summarizes how and what these new reforms are trying to achieve. In a comment, Biden mentioned how the new steps made today, which were already paid for by the bipartisan infrastructure law, would put back pay into the firefighter’s pockets. Biden also mentioned how the reforms would increase biweekly checks by 50% of their base salary for two years.
Pushing for permanent pay raises is vital as climate change has led to increasing wildfires and other natural disasters. The Biden administration understands this. Biden promised to do everything in his power to secure long-term funding for the project. In a statement, Biden thanked firefighters for their bravery and called them heroes.
That’s not all. The Office of Personnel Management has also announced the creation of a new “wildland fire management occupational series.” This new scheme aims to create a more feasible career ladder that federal firefighters can follow. Moreover, it’s also designed to help to recruiting agencies.
Firefighters have always been listed as “forestry technicians” in job classification with no distinctly defined role. The Biden administration is working hard to fix all the significant problems that federal firefighters have faced for decades. According to OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, the organization was proud to contribute to creating the wildland firefighter occupation series – a series that hadn’t existed for the last 50 years.
Agencies across the United States have been allotted 12 months to implement these new reforms. Meanwhile, firefighters have been allowed to stay in their current role classification or move on to the new one.
Overall, federal unions have welcomed these reforms and highlighted how the provision was not specific to a single region. As federal agencies face a severe problem in worker shortage, nationwide implementation of these steps will push more individuals to join the workforce.