June 30, 2021

Kilmer, Cole Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Shipyard Workers, Other Federal Workers Retire On-Time

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Tom Cole (OK-04) reintroduced the bipartisan Federal Retirement Fairness Act. This bill ensures that federal employees who started their careers as temporary workers – meaning they did not have the ability to make retirement contributions – are granted the opportunity to make catch-up retirement contributions so that they can retire on time. Without this option, workers have expressed that they face an unfair choice: leave the federal service without full retirement benefits or work longer than expected to obtain full retirement benefits.

“Many federal employees begin their careers in temporary positions before transitioning to permanent status – so we need to have their backs,” said Rep. Kilmer. “This bill will ensure that all federal workers, from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and beyond, have the opportunity to retire on time, regardless of how they started their careers.”

“Whether first hired under temporary status or not, civil service should be recognized, and these workers should have the option to pay toward retirement credit for the entirety of their employment,” said Rep. Cole. “I am proud to join in re-introducing the Federal Retirement Fairness Act that allows this buy-in benefit to give these civil employees earned time credit toward retirement.”

Prior to 1989, the Office of Personnel Management allowed federal employees to make catch-up payments to buy-back years during which they did not contribute to their retirement accounts. This authority was phased out when the government switched to a new federal employee retirement system.

Today, workers at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, at Tinker Air Force Base, and at federal facilities across the country who started as temporary employees and then converted to full-time employment, are now finding that they may have to work years longer than their peers to receive the same retirement benefits. The Federal Retirement Fairness Act would restore the authorities that allow employees hired since 1989 to buy-back the time they served as temporary federal employees under the same terms that were in place prior to 1989.

Rep. Kilmer added, “It is important that all federal employees have the freedom of choice to retire on time after their years of service if they have made the necessary contributions to do so. This bill ensures that all employees, regardless of their initial hiring status, are granted the same opportunity for the same amount of work.”

The Federal Retirement Fairness Act is supported by the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), National Federation of Federal Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees Forest Service Council, Federal Managers Association (FMA), National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, American Federation of Government Employees AFL-CIO, and National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.

“When a temporary employee converts to a permanent employee, the temporary service time is not considered when calculating the FERS retirement benefit. This bill would allow the once temporary, now permanent employee to make a deposit of employee contributions to make their temporary service creditable towards retirement,” said Ken Thomas, National President, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). “We thank Congressman Kilmer for leading the way on this effort to provide a more equitable retirement system for individuals who, after working for the government in a temporary capacity, dedicate themselves to a career in public service.”

“Seasonal and temporary federal employees who answer the call of duty deserve the same level of deference as the permanent employees they work with. It is unconscionable to ignore temporary or seasonal labor upon becoming permanent employees given many of these employees risk their lives and health for these jobs, as thousands of wildland firefighters do each year. To deny counting that time on the job is akin to creating a second-class of employee. If they put the time in, they deserve to have it counted toward retirement,” said Randy Erwin, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) National President.   

“The Federal Managers Association (FMA) appreciates the support, time and efforts from both Representatives Kilmer (D-WA6) and Representative Cole (R-OK4) on the introduction of the Bipartisan bill "Federal Retirement Fairness Act". Federal workers would like to see this inequality corrected and allow Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees to make deposits (buy-back the time) in the same manner as CSRS employees,” said James V Cappa, Federal Manager Association Chapter 14 President (Kitsap Area, Washington State).  

“Letter carriers who began their careers as non-career employees will benefit from the ability to make catch up contributions toward their retirement,” said Fredric Rolando, President, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). “NALC strongly supports the Federal Retirement Fairness Act and appreciates Reps. Kilmer and Cole for continuing to reintroduce this important legislation.”

“IFPTE applauds both Representatives Kilmer and Cole for introducing this legislation, as it provides long overdue pension parity to those federal workers who failed to receive proper pension credit for their federal service,” said Matt Biggs, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE). “This bill recognizes that regardless of an employee’s status as temporary or permanent, workers should not be unjustly penalized. IFPTE is pleased to endorse this bill.

“The National Rural Letter Carriers' Association (NRLCA) would like to thank Congressman Kilmer and Congressman Cole for introducing this long-awaited, bipartisan legislation for our membership. The NRLCA fully supports the Federal Retirement Fairness Act, which will give rural letter carriers who served as relief employees after December 31, 1988, the opportunity to buy back credit for service, something we have been advocating for a very long time,” said Ronnie Stutts, President of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. “This bill ensures that rural letter carriers, and other federal employees, who began their employment as non-career workers and did not have the ability to make retirement contributions, are granted the opportunity to make catch-up retirement contributions so that they can retire on time.”