Federal Manager's Daily Report

A 2021 infrastructure spending law includes funding to cover pay increases for the next two years. Image: ARM Photo Video/Shutterstock.com

OPM has created a job series for federal wildland firefighters to replace the former policy of including them in the broader “forestry technician” job series, which it said will be a “critical step in addressing long-standing wildland firefighter talent management challenges across the government.”

“It will identify and provide job titles and a clear path to career advancement that reflects the true nature of the work, no matter the agency that employs the firefighter. This will be a tremendous boost to recruiting, as agencies will now be able to publicize specific wildland firefighter job opportunities with a clear career progression,” said a memo announcing the new “wildland fire management series, 0456”

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“The clarity on career progression will also support better retention. Wildland firefighters will be able to readily understand the career path and the expectations and requirements for promotions,” it said, adding that agencies are to reclassify those employees within 12 months.

The change is a result of a study ordered by the infrastructure spending law enacted late in 2021, which also provided funding to cover pay increases for the next two years. Unions representing federal firefighters have been increasingly vocal recently in pressing the administration to put those raises into effect.

A White House fact sheet said that “Over the coming summer months, the administration is implementing a new set of temporary pay increases that will put retroactive pay (from October 1, 2021) into wildland firefighter pockets increasing their bi-weekly pay, up to the lesser of $20,000 or 50% of their annual base salary through September 2023. The federal agencies will begin processing these payments in the coming weeks, with additional payments to occur throughout July and into August.”

It added that longer-term, the administration “supports a new firefighter pay structure that is both sufficiently competitive and equitable to address longstanding nationwide recruitment and retention challenges and consider the longer work shifts, pressures and risks associated with these jobs. The administration is committed to working with Congress to secure much needed investments and to grow this critical workforce. The costs in firefighter turnover brought about by not having an adequately compensated and supported firefighting workforce will far exceed the amount needed to invest in them.”

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