Reed Introduces Legislation to Help Rhode Island Federal Workers
WASHINGTON, DC In an effort to ensure that Rhode Islands federal employees receive equal pay for equal work U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today introduced legislation to include Rhode Island in the Boston federal wage area.The Rhode Island Federal Worker Fairness Act of 2006 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. This is an issue of fairness. Significant disparities between Narragansett Bay wages and those in proximate wage areas raise serious concerns about the fairness and equity of the federal wage pay scales, Reed stated. The cost of living is no less costly in Rhode Island than it is in Massachusetts, and this bill will help Rhode Islands wage rate workers better provide for their families and ensure that our state keeps qualified and trained federal workers.Rhode Islands federal agencies, currently included in the Narragansett Bay Federal Wage Area, have consistently faced problems with employee recruitment and retention due to its proximity to the Boston wage area, where wage rates can be up to 33 percent higher. The average wage grade worker in Rhode Island earns $18.01 per hour compared to the same worker in Boston who earns $20.25 per hour or an employee in Hartford who earns $20.05 per hour. 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 the 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. Reed stated, Rhode Islands federal wage employees perform work that is important to our state and to our national security. It is essential that they receive equitable and fair wages to ensure that these workers are the most qualified and effective.In 2000, the U.S. Senate passed Reeds legislation to merge Rhode Island with the Boston locality pay area, boosting the wages of General Schedule federal employees in Rhode Island. The decision was reaffirmed in 2003.