Congressman Gerry Connolly, a democrat from Virginia introduced legislation this past week aimed at improving pension benefits and working conditions for thousands of federal firefighters. The legislation, which is called the Federal Firefighter Pay Equity Act, contains two basic requirements. First, it requires the federal government to include overtime wages received by federal firefighters for working their normally prescribed work schedule in their pension calculations. Second, the Act also requires the Office of Personnel Management [the federal agency that manages the federal workforce] to reduce federal firefighters’ average workweek to 60 hours within one-year of the Act’s passage.
From an outsider looking in, these changes may not seem significant, however for people familiar with the average work schedule for federal firefighters, this is a very big deal. Federal firefighters work an average of 72 hours per week. Compare that weekly average to a typical municipal firefighter that works between 42 and 56 hours per week depending on the locality. According to the Bill’s sponsor, the intent of the Act is to “ensure federal firefighters are eligible for the same full and fair retirement benefits as their state and local counterparts.”
Click here for more on the Federal Firefighter Pay Equity Act, including a text of the proposed legislation.
This new legislation could represent the second big change for federal firefighters’ pay and working conditions in recent years. In 2022, Congress passed legislation that allows federal firefighters the ability to swap work shifts for each other, a popular benefit enjoyed by many public agency firefighters and fire departments. Here is more on that story from September 2021.