Fire organizations split over federal firefighters’ pay bill

Fire organizations split over federal firefighters’ pay bill

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has developed its own proposal for alleviating inequities in federal firefighters’ pay schedules.

Congressman Mickey Leland has a bill pending, which the International Association of Fire Fighters backs. A hearing was scheduled for March 31 on the congressman’s bill, during which the IAFC was expected to submit testimony on its version. The IAFC has been actively seeking a sponsor for its legislation.

The IAFC contends that the California Democrat’s bill, H.R. 1174, is too expensive. Leland’s bill would establish a separate pay schedule for federal firefighters and reduce the work week for some. According to a U.S. General Accounting Office fact sheet from October, it would cost $26.8 million to maintain the same work force; a preliminary report estimated the salary cost would be slightly higher.

The IAFC’s version would maintain current work hours and create a new annual salary figure for each of the primary work week schedules (40, 56, and 72 hours). Shorter hours, says Chief Joseph J. O’Hagan, chairman of the IAFC’s federal/military section, would best be addressed in separate legislation. “We’re not at all opposed to shorter hours,” says O’Hagan. “But we don’t think the Leland bill will fly through Congress, or get support from this administration.”

Harold Schaitberger, the IAFF’s director of government affairs, says Leland’s bill would cost “next to nothing.” The IAFF has taken issue with the GAO’s estimate, saying the agency based its figures on maintaining higher personnel levels than now exist.

“More times than not, we’re together on federal issues,” Schaitberger observes. “This time we’re taking different approaches.”

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