If it’s true that pioneers were never supposed to count assignment hours along with field service (I have no reason to doubt first hand experience of others on the issue) at the very least this document suggests that some pioneers were breaking the rules and counting these hours as field service anyway, to the extent that this clarification had to be issued.
Is it possible that some elders have been under the impression that they are allowed to count shepherding as field service? Or might the rules have been tweaked over the years so that they counted, then didn’t count, then counted, then didn’t count?
We see this on/off pattern with other organisational policies: special talk should be before/after the memorial. Coordinator/presiding overseer. Study long term with Bible students/no longer than 6 months. Unbaptised publishers can/can’t be disassociated.
I think the whole concept of “pioneer” is a bit of a throwback anyway. At one time pioneers were allowed to purchase the literature for a reduced price. This was the primary material benefit of being a pioneer, and in that context it made sense to ensure that publishers “qualified” to access this “provision”. Since there is no longer any charge for the literature, the only distinction of being pioneer now is the prestige, the pioneer book, a few extra meetings and occasional applause during announcements.
It still makes sense to scrutinise “special pioneer” and “missionary” hours because they receive money from the society.