Sen. Heitkamp Secures Pay Rate Increase for 160 Federal Employees Across Western North Dakota

Sen. Heitkamp Secures Pay Rate Increase for 160 Federal Employees Across Western North Dakota

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – After pressing the top federal official overseeing federal workforce issues to improve support for federal employees across North Dakota, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved a pay rate increase for 160 civilian federal employees at Minot Air Force Base and across western North Dakota – the second such pay rate increase Heitkamp has successfully pushed for and announced since last December.

Heitkamp has led efforts to get federal employees the support they need and deserve to keep pace with the rising cost of living in western North Dakota. The news follows Heitkamp’s continued pressure on OPM Director Katherine Archuleta – who oversees federal workforce issues – to help recruit and retain federal workers in North Dakota, after she brought Archuleta to Minot Air Force Base and western North Dakota last September to see the dire need to help recruit and retrain federal employees in the state. Particularly throughout the Bakken, the high cost of living and higher-paying jobs have lured away employees and potential candidates from critical public sector jobs.

Heitkamp spoke with Archuleta this week and she informed Heitkamp that OPM approved pay rate increases of about 34 percent for 160 civilian federal employees – including aircraft mechanics, electricians, electronic equipment mechanics, heavy mobile equipment mechanics, and others – at Minot Air Force base and at other locations in western North Dakota. During their call, Heitkamp also ramped-up her pressure on Archuleta and pressed her for additional pay rate increases for other difficult-to-fill positions to further bolster the federal workforce throughout North Dakota. Archuleta committed to expediting the review process for pay rate increase requests, as Heitkamp and Archuleta also discussed ways the federal government can better retain and recruit employees in North Dakota and across the country – an effort Heitkamp is continuing to lead as the top Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee overseeing the federal workforce.

“Federal employees working in North Dakota boost our national defense, support farmers and ranchers, and provide permits for oil and natural gas drilling,” said Heitkamp. “To make sure this work continues, we have to provide fair compensation to both retain current employees and attract additional top talent to join the federal workforce, and to help keep our state and country safe and running. Last year, I brought Director Archuleta to North Dakota, and this week we had another productive conversation, as I noted how rising housing costs have caused folks to seek higher-paying jobs, particularly in the Bakken. Today’s announcement is another important step forward for 160 employees in our state, but I made it clear to Director Archuleta that OPM must be more aggressive in using its authority to support North Dakotans who dedicate their professional lives to public service and who help critical jobs in North Dakota industries. Moving forward, I will continue to work closely with OPM and federal agencies to make sure they treat federal employees fairly throughout North Dakota.”

When Heitkamp brought Archuleta to North Dakota last September, she took Archuleta to Minot Air Force Base to hear firsthand about the challenges civilian employees on the base face. Heitkamp and Archuleta also visited New Town where they met with North Dakota-based officials from federal agencies in the Bakken region about recruitment and retention issues within their individual agencies. They heard from federal agencies about problems they face filling and retaining law enforcement and social work positions in Indian Country, jobs at federal oil and natural gas permitting offices, and positions in the natural resources and engineering fields.

Just three months after that visit, Heitkamp announced that OPM approved pay rate increases of 33 to 37 percent for more than 150 civilian employees at Minot Air Force Base – including custodial workers, maintenance mechanics, and food service workers – to help offset the high cost of living in the area and help the base retain and recruit workers. Following this announcement, Heitkamp then continued to press Archuleta for greater support for the broader federal workforce throughout North Dakota.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee which oversees federal workforce issues, Senator Heitkamp has lead efforts to improve support for federal employees, and make all federal agencies and programs more effective and efficient. At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing last May, Heitkamp pressed Archuleta on federal workforce efficiency and effectiveness and discussed ways to improve the outlook for federal workers. During the hearing, which Archuleta testified at, Heitkamp noted that the federal government has been slow to address the challenges with retention of federal workers. The slow response has led to workers leaving federal jobs in the state, and it has stymied energy development at some oil wells that have moved off public lands because federal agencies don’t have workers available to approve drilling permits quickly enough.


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