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Saturday, April 17th, 2021

Sen. Tester introduces bill designed to help federal firefighters

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U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced a bill that seeks to correct a longstanding disparity between federal firefighters and their state, local, and municipal counterparts.

The Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act would allow federal firefighters more flexibility in shift trades without risking pay or affecting annual leave.

“It’s no secret that wildfires across the West are burning bigger and longer, meaning our federal firefighters work overtime, putting their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” Tester, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, said. “This critical bill gives them the flexibility they need to better balance their work and home lives, and it saves taxpayer dollars. Switching shifts is common practice among state and local firefighters—it’s only commonsense that our federal firefighters are able to do the same.”

Currently, federal firefighters can only swap shifts within a two-week pay period. Any shift swaps occurring outside of that period affects the calculation of hours worked and overtime pay. This results in one firefighter with increased pay and the other with their pay reduced. It is worth noting that some federal departments refuse to allow their firefighters to switch shifts at all. This is in contrast to state, local, and municipal firefighters, who are allowed to swap shifts without impacting their pay.

The Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act allows federal firefighters to engage in trade shifts without affecting the pay of either firefighter. The bill is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

Tester recently secured more than $400,000 through the Department of Homeland Security’s competitive Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to support local departments in Missoula, East Missoula, Great Falls, and Manhattan.