Congress to consider plight of temps with '1039 appointments'

(Courtesy Of National Federation Of Federal Employees)
By Joe Davidson
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

With all of the right jabs aimed at the pay of federal employees in recent weeks, you might not realize the lengths Uncle Sam will go to avoid fully compensating some members of his staff.

Among those are staffers with the infamous "1039 appointments."

These workers, often in the lower pay grades, serve Sam faithfully, year after year after year, but only for 1,039 hours a year. That's one hour short of six months, and it allows Sam to classify them as temporary employees. And that means they don't get fringe benefits and certainly have no job security.

Congress will consider their plight at a hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce.

Subcommittee members will hear about situations like those confronting Lawrence Shippen and Susan Forbes, whom we wrote about in January.

Shippen has worked for the Forest Service in California for about 20 years, but just under six months at a time. His temporary status leaves him without health insurance, so he doesn't get his weak hearing checked or his bad teeth fixed.

"It's really an abuse they are perpetrating on all the temporaries," he said.

Forbes is now a full-time Forest Service employee and has benefits. But she was a temp for 12 years. That time doesn't count toward her retirement, which she thinks about a lot now that she's approaching that age. Without credit for that period, she thinks she'll have to work until she is 70.

"I don't think I could make it on what I have in there now," she said.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), will look at cases like these and others in which employees feel cheated out of certain benefits because of a temporary job status that in some cases continues for decades.

"For some of the federal workers we represent in the U.S. Forest Service, temporary has lasted more than 30 years," William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in testimony prepared for the hearing.

Though Sam strives to be a model employer, and in many ways he is, Dougan said conditions of employment for temporary federal workers are "as bad as those provided by any employer. They receive no health insurance benefits, no life insurance benefits, no retirement benefits, no step increases and no competitive standing for internal placement into career jobs."

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