July 27, 2018

Kilmer, Cantwell Permanently Repeal Per Diem Rules that Nickel and-Dime Shipyard Workers, DOD Civilians Nationwide

Final FY19 defense spending bill also locks in overtime for shipyard workers on assignment to Japan through 2021

WASHINGTON, DC— Today. U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer and Senator Maria Cantwell announced the permanent repeal of a change to the Defense Department’s (DOD) civilian per diem rules. The DOD change caused shipyard workers and other defense civilians to pay more out of pocket on expenses when the government assigns them a job which requires them to travel.

The repeal was included in the final Conference Report of the joint House-Senate National Defense Authorization Act Conference Committee, the group assigned with negotiating the final version of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019. Last month, the House and Senate both passed their own versions of the NDAA which included the repeal.

Following today’s passage of the NDAA in the House, the legislation is expected to pass in the Senate and be signed by the president.

“The Defense Department’s hardworking civilian employees keep the Navy’s ships afloat and perform other critical jobs around the world that help keep us safe. The government shouldn’t nickel and dime them when they’re sent out of town for a work assignment,” Kilmer said. “While Congress must address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, I’m glad Congress recognized that forcing these hardworking people to foot the bill isn’t the way to do it.”

Cantwell said: “Shipyard workers should not face financial burdens when they are sent to work on national security projects around the globe. I’m glad we got this done for our naval shipyard workers, and I will continue to fight for Washington’s maritime industry.”

In 2014, the DOD cut per diem rates for federal employees and members of the military who travel longer than 30 days for work. The cuts meant workers on extended travel would be paid between 25 percent and 45 percent less than under the old policy, depending on how long they’re working away from home. 

Bruce Baillie, President of the Bremerton Metal Trades Council said: "It's been a long time coming to fix what was a horrible mistake. It hurt our workers and it hurt the Navy's ability to complete its mission. Management and Labor are both very happy to see this resolved."

Kilmer and Cantwell have worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate to enact a full repeal of the policy. In 2015 Kilmer introduced a bill in the House to reverse the cuts. He reintroduced the bill in April of 2017 while Senator Cantwell co-introduced the Senate version of the bill later that month.

Every year, more than a thousand workers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Naval Base Kitsap are deployed throughout the Pacific to assist in the readiness and maintenance of the Navy’s fleet. The conference bill contains other policies that will help defense workers in Washington when they travel for work.

In another win for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Naval Base Kitsap, Kilmer and Cantwell led the push for the authorization of overtime payments for shipyard workers who conduct maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan when they work overtime. The final NDAA bill includes a measure to extend overtime payments to civilian shipyard workers through September 30, 2021.

“Washington’s Naval shipyard workers make sure our fleets are ready for duty whenever and wherever they are needed, and they deserve to be fairly compensated for their work,” said Cantwell.

“The shipyard workers we send overseas work long hours away from their families to make sure the Navy completes its vital mission in the Pacific. They’re not on vacation, and when they work overtime, they ought to get paid for it,” Kilmer said.