“We feel these regulations are entirely consistent with the provisions of the Homeland Security Act,” said DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie.
Monday, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union filed an opposition to the motion.
“Implementation of MaxHR first was blocked in August and DHS decided not to appeal at that time and instead waited until October. Now, almost four months after the initial ruling -- and three years after being given authority to create a new personnel system -- DHS has decided that this is an emergency? This is a clear example of an agency that has backed itself into a corner and now desperately is trying to get out,” said AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth.
Orluskie said the Department’s timetable was justified.
“We took a great deal of time to create these regulations. We weren’t dilly-dallying. We were giving the regulations due diligence,” said Orluskie.
Orluskie said DHS used the time to meet with employees and the unions to discuss the proposed regulations.
Whatever the Department’s reason for seeking a quicker hearing, NTEU President Colleen Kelley said the legal process needs to progress at its normal rate.
“NTEU believes that the gravity of the issues, which will impact the lives and careers of tens of thousands of DHS employees, deserves a full and fair hearing. DHS’s request strikes me as irrational and reaching given that the Department has yet to show any sense of urgency regarding implementation of the new regulations,” said Kelley.
For more information about the continuing legal saga, see DHS FILES NOTICE OF APPEAL RULING ON MAXHR, UNIONS ANNOUNCE THEIR CROSS APPEAL at
Federal Employees Gain Ground Against Unfair Bush Rules
Nov. 30—Federal employees and their unions scored recent victories in their efforts to challenge new Bush administration personnel rules that would take collective bargaining rights from 650,000 civilian Defense Department workers and 160,000 Homeland Security employees.
A coalition of 10 labor organizations filed suit to stop the Defense Department rules that would end long-standing civil service personnel procedures. As a result, Defense Department officials agreed to delay implementing the new rules until February 2006, after a hearing the judge has scheduled for January 2006.
“What’s at stake is not only the freedom of these workers to join and form unions, but the undermining of pay scales that reward commitment and dedication with a pay for performance system that rewards favoritism and politics,” says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka.
New personnel rules also are on hold at the Department of Homeland Security. After U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer rejected the Bush administration’s latest attempt to implement the rules, Homeland Security officials announced in October 2005 they would delay the start of the new performance management, pay and classification rules, which are similar to those proposed by the Bush Defense Department. In an August decision, Collyer found the Homeland Security personnel rules illegally took away employees’ bargaining process. Homeland Security is appealing the decision.
Imposed on Homeland Security employees and proposed for Defense Department employees in January 2005, the new personnel rules (National Security Personnel System, NSPS) would scrap decades of federal civil service laws. The rules would replace civil service pay grades and promotion rules with so-called performance-based job evaluations that would limit the issues that can be discussed in contract bargaining by taking pay and work rules off the table.
Addressing the court's decision to hold a hearing in January on the Defense Department rules, AFGE President John Gage says, “We are very pleased that the court has agreed to hear this case in a timely manner. The NSPS could have grave implications for the safety of America’s fighting men and women and for safeguarding the public coffers.” AFGE is among federal employee unions taking part in the suit.
Bush Personnel Rules Would Revoke Due Process
AFGE says the new regulations for Defense Department workers revoke due process rights, allow supervisors to punish employees through their paychecks, create a so-called “pay-for-performance” system that pits employees against each other for pay increases and undermine meaningful collective bargaining.
On Dec. 8 thousands of federal workers and other union members will march to the White House to demand that the government honor their freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. The protest is part of a week of global actions in conjunction with International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, that will shine a light on employers’ efforts to thwart workers’ freedom to form unions and the failure of current government leaders to protect this basic right.
The groups filing suit include AFGE; AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department; Fire Fighters; Laborers; International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers; National Federation of Federal Employees, an affiliate of the Machinists; and the unaffiliated Association of Civilian Technicians; National Association of Government Employees; Teamsters; and United Power Trades Organization.
Officials Express Confidence in New Civilian Personnel System
Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service
Pentagon officials want to emphasize to civilian employees that the changes in their personnel system are all about improving national security.
After a two-year process, officials have designed the new National Security Personnel System to be faster, more flexible and more agile, said Michael Dominguez, assistant secretary of the Air Force and head of the NSPS product team.
"This whole personnel system has been designed to focus on national security and support to national security," he said. "It's important, because the nature of the threat is changing."
The system is performance-based and civilian employees can "take ownership of their performance and their success" in the national security mission, said Mary Lacey, the program executive officer for the system.
The regulations governing the system go into effect beginning Dec. 1. However, a number of federal employees unions have vowed to stop implementation.
"We collaborated with the representatives of the unions in the design of NSPS," said Dominguez. "We received their inputs during the comment period and modified the regulations around them. It's unfortunate that everyone won't be happy with these regulations, but I think we've tried to strike the best balance that's possible."
The system requires DoD to continue collaborating with the unions as implementation progresses. "Their feedback to us is essential," he said.
Lacey said the labor relations portion of the regulations become effective Dec. 1. The human resources portion of the system - the staffing, the classification, the performance management pieces - will phase in over a number of months in the January to March timeframe, she said.
Characteristics of the new system are new position descriptions, broader pay bands, faster hiring and better federal sector competitiveness with private firms, Lacey said.
The first 60,000 people will transition into the system early next year. "They will be given new performance standards," Lacey said. "It's very important that we not make any performance-based pay adjustments until they have had the opportunity to perform under those standards and performance factors.
"It won't be until January 2007 that their pay will be adjusted based on performance," she emphasized.
When people transfer into the system, they will have "run time" in the current grade step, Lacey said. As part of that transition, DoD will "buy out" the remaining time for a within-grade increase. "So you'll find that the vast majority of our employees upon initial transition to NSPS will get a pay raise," she said.
Dominguez said he has a lot of confidence that the department can handle an effort that will transfer 650,000 civilian employees in 41 civilian personnel systems into a performance-based pay system. He said the department has had a number of performance-based demonstration projects - the most famous being China Lake, Calif., begun in 1979.
Roughly 45,000 DoD employees already are covered under some sort of performance-based pay system. "In the Department of Defense we have extensive experience in managing these transitions to performance-based pay and in running performance-based pay systems," he said. "We have very, very high confidence that we have got this pretty nearly right and that high-quality leaders and employees out there will make this work."
Why Bush's border scheme won't work
December 1, 2005
WASHINGTON -- On the day before President Bush launched his new border security/guest worker proposal, he was almost upstaged by a timely and telling U.S. Border Patrol complaint: The labels on their uniforms read "Made in Mexico."
It's "embarrassing" to wear a uniform made in Mexico while protecting the country's border with Mexico, T. J. Bonner, president of the border cops' 6,500-member union, told the Associated Press.
It's also symbolic of the real world with which Bush must reckon. Borders, artifacts of the political world, crumble these days before the relentless pressures of the money world. The president, a businessman who happens to occupy the world's most powerful political office, has come up with an immigration plan that tries to satisfy both worlds--and fails.
For one thing, his plan is not new. It is the same temporary guest-worker program he unveiled in January 2004. It has only been repackaged with more emphasis on border security, much less on the guest-worker plan, which sounds to many in Bush's own conservative base like an amnesty like others passed since the 1980s. To critics, amnesties only reward lawbreakers.
His 2004 speech was headlined on the White House Web site as, "President Bush Proposes New Temporary Worker Program." His new push, launched this week, was headlined "President Discusses Border Security and Immigration Reform in Arizona." Temporary workers? He didn't discuss them until the final quarter of his speech.
But he's not flip-flopping. He's merely trying to calm and take control over the rising political storm that he helped to generate around immigration, an issue that has erupted in anti-immigrant backlash as volunteer "Minutemen" have stirred up publicity with their makeshift border patrols.
The issue tells us a lot about this President Bush. Immigration has been one of his signature issues, although from a decidedly pro-business point of view. Since his days as Texas governor, he has seen win-win benefits in immigration policies that would supply employers with cheap immigrant labor and lure immigrant voters, particularly Hispanics, to the Republican Party.
But these days immigration divides his conservative base more deeply than any issue since Harriet Miers' doomed Supreme Court nomination. His border security/guest worker scheme could easily meet that same unhappy end. Some of his most outspoken fellow conservatives are calling for a range of anti-immigrant measures. Some proposals are as radical as a wall along the entire 2,000-mile Mexican border, using military forces to patrol the border and creating a volunteer marshal program to help patrols.
One bill sponsored by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) would go so far as to end this nation's time-honored practice of granting automatic citizenship to children born here to undocumented immigrants. Deal's suggestion is sad, unnecessary and, I am confident, far outside the mainstream of how fair-minded Americans really feel about immigration. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey in April found that 67 percent of respondents favored using the military to guard the Mexican border, but 62 percent favored allowing undocumented immigrants working in the United States to apply for legal temporary-worker status.
That's what Bush wants, although he cautions that it is not another amnesty. But one wonders: If Bush's guest-worker plan is not offering an amnesty, what does?
The program would allow immigrants now illegally in the U.S. to obtain legal status for three years with the possibility of another three-year extension if they have a job and their employer vouches for them. The workers would be required to go home after their time is up, but the president has been vague about what is to be done about those who decide they don't want to go back.
What's missing is a serious crackdown on the biggest magnet that draws illegal immigrants: jobs. Employers and consumers love cheap labor, as long as it is not competing directly for their jobs. Bush shows no desire to get in the way of that cozy relationship.
We don't need tougher penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegals; we only need to enforce the tough penalties that already have been legislated. Instead, employer sanctions have been so poorly enforced that prosecutions of employers have plummeted in recent decades. When the law lacks teeth, it is ignored.
The result has been a make-believe immigration policy: The president pretends that undocumented workers will police themselves, and the rest of us pretend to believe him.
We need something more sensible. America thrives on immigration. It is part of our national character. But we also need some semblance of order--and fairness!
Count On 3.1 Percent Pay Raise Come January
Thursday, December 1, 2005; A23
Now you can take it to the bank: Federal employees will get an average pay increase of 3.1 percent next year.
President Bush locked in that figure yesterday when he signed into law the legislation that provides the raise -- the $137.6 billion spending bill for the departments of Transportation, the Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development for fiscal 2006.
One wrinkle still needs to be ironed out, however.
The federal pay raise always varies by geographic location. Later this month, Bush will issue an executive order delineating how much of it next year will come as an across-the-board increase and how much will take the form of locality pay, which varies by region.
If the White House follows the recommendation of the Federal Salary Council, an advisory group, federal workers in the Washington-Baltimore area would receive an average pay increase of 3.44 percent. Whatever the figure is, the raise takes effect in January.
In approving the raise, Congress set aside Bush's two-tiered pay proposal -- which called for a 2.3 percent raise for federal civilian employees and a 3.1 percent increase for the military -- and decided to award both groups the higher amount.
Federal employees, on average, have received an annual pay raise of at least 2 percent in every year but two since 1969, according to the Congressional Research Service.
-- Christopher Lee
Defense Gives Civilian Employees a Preview of Performance-Based Pay System
By Stephen Barr
Thursday, December 1, 2005; B02
The Defense Department has given its civil service employees a look at where they will fit into a new performance-based pay system when the Pentagon opts out of the General Schedule, a decades-old system known for providing predictable pay raises to white-collar federal employees.
The new National Security Personnel System (NSPS) would split Defense white-collar civilians into four major career groups, place them in "pay bands," which are broad salary scales, and use numerical scores to rate their job performance.
The department posted directives about the pay system on a Defense Web site without fanfare before the Thanksgiving holiday. The directives can be found at http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps and are stamped "draft" because they may be modified after discussions with union representatives.
Defense civil service employees have been eager to learn where they would land in the new system. In the transition to the NSPS, officials have promised that no employee would take a pay cut and that some might get a boost in pay.
The implementation -- and employee acceptance -- of the Defense pay plan is being closely watched on Capitol Hill and inside the Bush administration. The administration has proposed setting up performance-based pay systems for all federal employees, and the Office of Management and Budget has posted a plan (at http://www.results.gov ) that would abolish the General Schedule by 2010.
The directives released by the Pentagon apply only to Defense white-collar, civil service employees. Plans to convert Defense blue-collar employees to the new pay system have not been completed.
Under the directives, Defense white-collar employees would be split into four career groups: standard (lawyers, accountants, budget analysts and other professional and administrative occupations); scientific and engineering; investigative and protective services; and medical. The standard career group would be the largest, covering 71 percent of the department's white-collar employees.
The employees would be placed into pay bands based on the nature of their work and job skills. The use of pay bands would make it easier for managers to assign new or different work to employees, and would give employees a better chance to broaden their skills and advance in their careers, officials have said.
Defense employees in the "standard career group," for example, would fall into three "pay schedules": professional/analytical, technician/support and supervisor/manager.
Each pay schedule would have three salary bands. A professional employee, for example, could be placed in band one, which would be equivalent to the GS 5 to 8; band two, GS 9 to 13, or band 3, GS 14 and 15. Base pay, not including locality supplements, would range from a low of $24,677 in band one to a high of $122,343 in band three (about 5 percent higher than what a GS-15, step 10, earns in base pay today).
Pay raises would have three parts -- a nationwide increase that may vary by pay band, locality increases based on geographic or labor market conditions, and an increase based on job performance ratings.
Employees rated as "fair" -- the lowest acceptable level of job performance -- would be eligible for pay band and locality raises. Employees rated as providing "valued performance" or higher would be eligible for a performance-based raise. Employees at the top of their pay bands would get a bonus in lieu of a performance raise.
Defense plans to post the definitions of the rating levels within the next few days, a Defense spokeswoman said.
Union officials have expressed concern that the Pentagon would fall short in developing a pay and performance system that is seen as fair and credible by employees. In testimony prepared for a Nov. 17 Senate hearing, unions questioned whether Defense could develop a methodology to justify raises that vary because of location or occupation. The Pentagon plans to start the system using the government-wide locality pay system developed at the Office of Personnel Management to allow time for a smooth transition to the NSPS, the Defense spokeswoman said.
The launch of the new Defense civil service personnel system, in the planning stages for the past two years, is tentatively scheduled for February. The start, however, could be delayed by litigation. A coalition of unions has filed suit to stop proposals that would allow the NSPS to curb union rights and modify procedures used by employees when they appeal disciplinary actions. A court hearing has been set for Jan. 24.