March 20, 2007

Reed, Whitehouse Introduce Legislation to Help Rhode Island Federal Workers

WASHINGTON, DC — In an effort to ensure that Rhode Island’s federal employees receive equal pay for equal work, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced legislation to include Rhode Island in the Boston federal wage area. The Rhode Island Federal Worker Fairness Act of 2007 would merge the Narragansett Bay wage area with the Boston, Massachusetts wage area to provide Rhode Island federal wage workers with pay equity in the region.

“Each year, Rhode Island loses qualified federal workers to Boston and Connecticut due to significant wage disparities,” stated Reed. “This raises serious concerns about the fairness and equity of the federal wage pay scales. Federal wage workers perform many important duties and it is essential that they are fairly compensated for their work. I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Whitehouse to ensure that Rhode Island’s federal workers receive equal pay for equal work.”

“We’re proud of our federal workers and their service to our nation,” Whitehouse said. “Bringing their pay in line with others in New England – a 12 percent raise – will help these people and their families continue living and working in Rhode Island.”

Rhode Island’s federal agencies, currently included in the Narragansett Bay Federal Wage Area, have consistently faced problems with employee recruitment and retention due to proximity to states where wage rates are higher. The average wage grade worker in Rhode Island earns $2 per hour less than the same worker in Boston and $1.50 less than their counterpart in Hartford. Federal wage rates are determined by the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee (FPRAC) which studies the prevailing rate system and reviews wage survey area boundaries based upon commuting patterns and census data.

Nearly 80 percent of all Federal Wage System workers in the United States work either in the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Naval Station Newport employs most of the nearly 500 federal wage workers in the Narragansett Bay Wage Area. These workers, including janitors, mechanics, machine tool operators, munitions and explosives operators, electricians, and engineers, are paid under one of the lowest Federal Wage System (FWS) regional pay scales in the nation while residing in one of the highest cost-of-living areas.


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