MSC Able Seaman - Mixed Work Schedule

MSC: Able Seaman - Mixed Work Schedule (4 to 6 months only allowed per calendar year)

Long time AB and ex-military mariner here looking for current or former MSC mariners who currently work in or have direct knowledge of this position. I hear what the recruiter is telling me and know what the written job announcement states. No opinions or speculations needed about MSC, I’ve heard both sides for years. I just need the facts about this specific job from current or recent MSC sailors. Much appreciated and cheers.

What is meant by mixed work schedule?

What is mixed work schedule? This means, if you are hired to this position type, you will only be authorized to work up to 6 months a year in the position in which you are hired, based on the needs of the Command.
However, there are some differences from typical employment. These positions are:

  • Not eligible to a recruitment or a retention bonus
  • only earn time towards retirement when in a pay status
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But are you a permenent federal employee and eligible for unemployment after a work assignment as it sounds as though you technically get laid off for the remaining six months?

Man, they have resorted to some off the wall hiring/manning practices.

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This sounds like a way to deny federal pension/TSP and other benefits.

“Part time” workers.

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The normal navy/msc method, want something for nothing.

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Another MSC “attribute” is that the fact that the afloat mariners are NOT regular civil service employees- they are “Excepted Service” fed employees after they reach tenure status. When you first hire on- you’re Excepted Appointment-Conditional.

What does this mean? This means that you a non-competitive civil service employee- although your employment time counts- to switch to a regular Competitive Service position you must jump through all of the hoops- the only “loophole” was to work for them shoreside; for all other fed competitive positions- you need to apply and jump through all of the hoops.

Further- when a lot of us hired in as 3rd A/E and etc- your permanent position was 3rd A/E Watch- B, the lowest 3rd A/E slot for pay- this made a big difference in your retirement calcs- as everything except your high 3 was calculated around that base wage. Yes, we often sailed way above that original position- until you received a full promotion your “official” pay scale was the same…


Federal Job Classifications: Competitive Vs. Excepted Service |

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To keep it simple, maybe overly simple. It means the Federal hiring process doesn’t apply. MSC doesn’t have to run a public position announcement and solicit applications to fill positions, and you don’t need to go through the application process to go from 2nd Mate to Chief Mate.

They are trying to give people the option of working for “X” number of months, and then get equal time off. Similar to working on commercial ships, but still staying within the regulations imposed by being a federal government employee.

I have not sailed commercially with a union, so my question for those who have; do you earn retirement while at home, not signed onto a ship? If no, then this isn’t that much different.

These mixed work schedule employees will get relieved much closer to on time.

The job announcement uses the verbiage: work up to 6 months a year AND work up to 6 months per calendar concurrently. Is this intentional or did someone fail technical writing 101?

Depending on which interpretation they use, I could work 20 August 2023 to 20 December 2023, have one month off and be called back for a 6 month tour in 2024 because of two different “calendar years.”

The only way not to get taken advantage of it seems on the mixed schedule, and there after, is to start January 01, 2024–6mths on/6mths off…

It also means that if one desires to go work a government GS job after MSC life, he can only apply for publicly listed jobs, and is treated as a regular outside applicant, with no super special government preference/credit. Said another way, MSC isn’t a backdoor way to the gravy train.