Some career seasonals at Glacier could be out of a job

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Some longtime seasonal staff at Glacier National Park are finding themselves out of a job this summer, even though they have years of experience.

Diane Sine has been a seasonal ranger in Glacier since 1985, but she doesn’t expect to have a job this summer. She said Glacier isn’t to blame, but due to reinterpretation of Office of Personnel Personnel Management regulations, the national parks have been told that many long-time seasonals are no longer eligible for rehire status.

“This is not due to anything done improperly on the part of the employees or the local hiring officials. Instead, it’s due to the fact that rules which were followed in good faith in the past have now been reinterpreted, and that reinterpretation is being applied retroactively resulting in the punishment of staff who have done nothing wrong. That punishment is coming in the form of making us ineligible for rehire status,” Sine said in an email to the Hungry Horse News.

At issue are two things hurting career seasonals, Sine noted in a subsequent interview. For one, is the 24 and 36 rule. That rule says that if a seasonal employee was on the books for 24 months out of 36, that the job should be considered a permanent post. The idea behind the rule was to keep parks from taking advantage of seasonals in jobs that should be permanent.

Seasonals don’t get the same benefits that permanent employees do. The problem is that with the 24-36 rule, a person doesn’t actually have to work those months — they just have to be on the books to be considered ineligible. So in Sine’s case, she worked a few hours in the winter on a program for the Park, but was considered still on the books for 24 months, even though she only was paid for a few hours work.

In the second case, seasonals are only supposed to work 1,036 hours a year. But some seasonals would work 1,036 hours in one park — say in Glacier in the summer — and then work another 1,036 hours in a southern park in the winter. Under the old rules, the Park Service was given a waiver.

Not anymore, Sine noted.

Under the new interpretation, a seasonal can only work 1,036 in all parks combined.

Sine said she understands the reasoning behind the rules, but many career seasonals weren’t given any notice and the reinterpretation of the rules is retroactive.

She said she knew of about 30 to 40 career seasonals who could be out of a job in Glacier. Sine could reapply for her job, but under the competitive rules for hire, she would likely lose out to a veteran, because veterans looking for jobs score higher under federal hiring rules, even though she has more than 30 years experience.

In the past, if a seasonal had done a good job, they would simply be called by their supervisor to see if they wanted their job back, or at worst, they had to fill out a one-page application.

Glacier spokeswoman Lauren Alley declined to comment on the situation and referred inquires to the Park Service’s national office. Jeremy K. Barnum, chief spokesman for the Park Service said in an email that the Park Service and the Office of Personnel Management have had ongoing discussions.

“The NPS has not changed its use of non-competitive rehire authority for seasonal employees during the course of these discussions. It remains up to a park or region within the NPS to determine the appropriate hiring authority for a particular position in a park or region,” he said. “The NPS continues to work toward resolving any concerns or confusion about NPS hiring practices to ensure that those policies and practices meet OPM standards and support the NPS mission to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

The bulk of Glacier’s workforce is seasonal in the summer months. They do everything from lead hikes to maintain campgrounds to patrol roads.

This year, however, some longtime familiar faces in Glacier might be missing.

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