No employees would lose their jobs under the proposal, and none of the EEOC’s 51 existing offices would close, the agency said.
Some employees performing administrative tasks would be reassigned to front-line jobs such as investigating or mediating complaints. Some supervisors who were overseeing mediators, trial attorneys or other front-line workers would lose their supervisory duties and pick up some of those front-line tasks.
“We think this is going to provide greater service, better service, faster service to the people we serve,” said Nick Inzeo, director of field programs.
“The idea is to utilize people not so much as supervisors and managers but doing the programmatic work that we do,” Inzeo said.
The four-member commission is scheduled to vote on the restructuring plan at a May 16 hearing. If the commission approves the plan, it then must be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and congressional leaders for their review, Inzeo said.
The plan would create a new field office designation to complement the existing district, area and local offices. Eight district offices would be downgraded to field offices. Those offices are in Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Antonio and Seattle. The area office in Tampa, Fla., would be bumped up to field status. New local offices would be opened in Las Vegas and Mobile, Ala.
The number of office directors reporting to headquarters would be reduced from 25 to 16, while the number of regional attorneys reporting to headquarters would be reduced from 23 to 15.
The EEOC estimates the plan would save several million dollars over an unspecified number of years, largely because higher-paying supervisory positions would be recast as front-line jobs.
The head of the union representing EEOC employees said little immediate savings would be achieved. Most of the administrative and supervisory positions the agency plans to replace with front-line workers already are vacant because of a hiring freeze that’s been in place for nearly four years, said Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Government Employees.
“When the agency says nobody’s going to lose their job, they’re right. They can’t afford to lose their jobs because there are so few people left,” Martin said.
However, the few support employees the agency has left could find themselves out of the running for promotions because those jobs will be reserved for higher-ranking managers or administrative staff whose positions are eliminated, she said.
“It’s just another example of how what they do dumps on the people who are here committed to the mission,” she said.
The field office reorganization is the second phase of a larger effort by Dominguez to overhaul how the EEOC operates. The first step took place in March, when the EEOC launched its National Contact Center under a pilot project that will test the feasibility of using private-sector employees to answer questions from the public regarding discrimination and filing complaints. The third step, to be announced soon, will involve streamlining the EEOC’s Washington headquarters.
Unions call for repeal of law authorizing new Defense personnel system
By Shawn Zeller
Union officials who walked out of meetings with Defense Department leaders over the design of the National Security Personnel System asked Congress Tuesday to repeal legislation authorizing the department to create new civil service rules for its 650,000 civilian workers.
"We're calling on every member of Congress and every senator to do the right thing," said Richard N. Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "And that right thing is to reverse NSPS. It will do more harm than good."
Six unions - NFFE, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Association of Government Employees, the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, and the National Association of Independent Labor - walked out of congressionally mandated meet-and-confer sessions between Defense management and union leaders on Monday. The six unions represent about 100,000 Defense workers.
Five of the unions are members of the 36-member United Defense Workers Coalition, which is lobbying against Defense's proposed rules, and continues to meet with Defense leaders. The National Association of Independent Labor is not a member of the coalition, but was participating in the meet-and-confer sessions.
Defense's rules, announced in February, have yet to be finalized, but they would restrict union bargaining rights, create stricter disciplinary rules and eliminate the General Schedule in favor of a pay-for-performance system.
Mark Gibson, a negotiator with the American Federation of Government Employees, said union members have indicated that they want to continue meeting with Defense management. The meet-and-confer sessions are scheduled to end Thursday. But Gibson said he respected his colleagues' decision and felt as disheartened as they about the details of the new system. "Congress is accountable. It's their bad law. They need to fix it," he said.
Ronald Ault, president of the Metal Trades department of the AFL-CIO, said Congress has a long history of making bad law, some far more severe than NSPS. "Slavery was once the law of the land," he said. "At one time, women didn't have the right to vote. If you look at the shameful history of our Congress heaping injustices on the American people, NSPS is just the latest bad law."
The preliminary rules indicated that Defense would declare issues related to the assignment of work, deployments and use of new technology to be management rights that are not subject to collective bargaining. But the rules provided few details of how Defense would define those areas.
During the meet-and-confer process, the unions objected strongly to indications from Defense leaders that the final rules will allow the Defense secretary to issue directives that would overrule collective bargaining agreements.
The union leaders offered different assessments of what future role unions would have at the Defense Department. Ault said the rules so restrict unions' role that he would have trouble recruiting members. "I wouldn't pay for something that doesn't have any value," he said. But Gibson indicated that the unions plan to fight on, lobbying Congress and organizing at the local level to overturn the new system.
Local screeners on TSA radar
By Jim Ritchie
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Local airport officials say the U.S. Transportation Security Administration wants to cut Pittsburgh International Airport's staff of 348 security screeners even though the number of local passengers is soaring.
Kent George, executive director of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said TSA officials conducted an on-site inspection of Pittsburgh International last week to review staffing needs. George said federal officials told him that Pittsburgh International would lose screeners.
"I have not been told their results, but the indication is there will probably be a reduction here at Pittsburgh," George said. "Once we find out what the facts are, we will then address them."
The union representing about 800 TSA employees nationwide said employees at Pittsburgh International have been warned that as many as 100 jobs will be cut at Pittsburgh, according to Peter Winch, spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees.
The TSA has operated the security checkpoint at Pittsburgh International and most other U.S. commercial airports since shortly after 9/11. Most times, a passenger waits no longer than 10 minutes to pass through the checkpoint before boarding a plane.
George and local TSA officials fear a reduction in screeners would lengthen the wait for passengers.
Jeanne Cooper, an international humanitarian from Friendship, travels frequently and uses Pittsburgh International. She says it's among the nicest airports she's encountered.
"I've never experienced a significant wait compared to other airports," she said. "Getting through the actual security clearance is a very efficient and quick procedure. But if they're going to cut by up to a third -- wow -- then it really could be a problem."
Congress set a cap of no more than 45,000 TSA employees nationwide. The agency reviews staff annually to stay within the cap and reviewed Pittsburgh International's checkpoint a week ago to analyze the airport's staffing needs.
The TSA took over screening operations at Pittsburgh in summer 2002 and once employed as many as 635 screeners. In 2003, the TSA made significant cuts nationally in its work force, dropping the number of screeners in Pittsburgh to its current level.
Ann Davis, a TSA spokesman, wouldn't say whether Pittsburgh International would lose or gain screeners in the latest review.
"I don't think any decisions have been made," she said.
If cuts are ordered, the agency would not lay off employees, she said. Rather, the TSA would not refill positions as employees retire or resign. Some airports could gain staff.
Local TSA and airport officials say a cut would come at the wrong time, especially with the number of local "origination and destination" travelers on the rise. Those passengers, referred to as O&D traffic, fly to or from Pittsburgh, as opposed to travelers who connect flights in Pittsburgh.
The number of local passengers reached an all-time high in 2004 -- 3.8 million -- and is expected to be higher this year because of the addition of discount airlines, such as Southwest Airlines. Local passengers accounted for 3.4 million fliers in 2002.
Southwest began flying to Chicago, Philadelphia, Orlando and Las Vegas earlier this month. Hooters Air started flights in February to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"With our O&D growing, I am not happy there would be a reduction" at the checkpoint, George said.
Authority and local TSA officials even have proposed building a second checkpoint in the airport's vacant "E" Commuter Terminal that passengers would access directly from the third-floor ticketing area. TSA's director in Pittsburgh, Bob Blose, said during a recent news conference it is crucial to not lose screeners because of projections for increased local passengers and the proposed opening of a second checkpoint.
Pittsburgh's connecting traffic has plummeted because of US Airways' financial problems and the closing of its hub at Pittsburgh International. The airport's connecting traffic has dropped 48 percent since 2002, from 5.5 million in 2002 to 2.9 million in 2004.
Jim Ritchie can be reached at [email protected] or (412) 320-7933.
Employees blast proposed personnel policy changes
By TIM KAUFFMAN
Most employees believe proposed changes to personnel policies at the Defense Department give managers too much authority to adjust salaries and change work assignments, strip workers of basic rights and protections and will destroy morale, according to a sampling of public comments submitted on the changes.
The Pentagon received more than 58,000 comments on its proposed National Security Personnel System (NSPS) during a 30-day period that ended March 16. About 44,000 of those were form letters circulated by unions opposed to the changes, according to Brad Bunn, deputy program executive officer for NSPS.
Officials from Defense and the Office of Personnel Management, who are drafting NSPS, used a software program called CommentWorks to sort through the comments and group them by common concerns, Bunn said.
“By organizing the comments this way, DoD and OPM can address the comments in a structured way, and determine whether changes to the proposed regulations are warranted,” Bunn said in a prepared statement. “The final regulations will include a section addressing the comments received during the public comment period.”
More than a few employees wrote to express their skepticism that their concerns will be addressed in the final rules. “The people with the power have already decided to implement this plan, and they will do as they see fit,” one writer said.
The vast majority of the comments are against all or parts of NSPS, which would replace existing pay, personnel and labor relations policies under Title 5 for up to 746,000 civilian employees at the Pentagon. The proposed changes represent the most sweeping overhaul of the federal personnel system in a half century and are part of a larger plan by the Bush administration to adopt civil service reforms governmentwide.
Performance pay concerns
The proposal to base future pay increases and promotions on performance rather than tenure generated some of the loudest and most consistent concerns.
“This system will force workers to compete with one another for pay raises, which will destroy teamwork, increase conflict among employees and reward short-term outcomes,” said a 16-year Defense employee. “There is no guarantee that even the best workers will receive a pay raise or that the pay offered will be fair or competitive. This system will create a situation in which workers are in conflict with one another and afraid to speak out about harassment, violations of the law and workplace safety problems.”
Many employees believe they’ll get smaller raises under the performance-based pay system and, as a result, will see their planned retirement annuities shrink. They also question the proposal to remove any guaranteed cost-of-living or locality adjustment.
“It is entirely possible that in a few years my pay and that of others will not keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living for middle-class America,” one employee said.
Many also feel the system will put too much power in the hands of supervisors, who they say will be able to reward personal loyalty instead of job performance. Some say the root problem isn’t old pay systems or inadequate rewards but rather poorly trained or just plain corrupt managers.
“It is true that under the current system poor performers usually continue to get annual cost-of-living raises, within-grade increase and often performance bonuses, sometimes even promotions. This is not a system failure. It is poor supervision and leadership that allows this to occur,” one writer said. “Given that this is a failure of leadership rather than the system, how will a new system fix this problem? Systems do not substitute for leadership!”
One writer supported the Pentagon’s efforts to reward high-performing employees but questioned why the proposed rules don’t include details on how pay bands would be structured.
Defense officials have said the final rules will contain broad design principles for the new pay and classification system that will be detailed in departmental directives issued later. But many writers complained about a lack of details.
“I am not opposed to change if I can see the details of the changes. I haven’t seen it yet for NSPS, so at best I’m undecided,” said one employee with 26 years of civil service experience. “I see a lot of distracting hoopla but not a lot of details. Show me the details and forget the sales pitch, because I’m not buying it.”
Comments supporting NSPS were in the definite minority.
One writer applauded the notion of basing pay decisions on performance instead of tenure. “Anything that can be done to make it more like the civilian world, in terms of being hired, promoted, paid competitively and fired is, in my opinion, a very good thing,” the writer said.
Another asked why this system wasn’t put in place years ago. “Government workers will now be forced to strive for excellence when they know their job and job security/pay is on the line,” the person wrote.
Yet some who support the pay-for-performance concept also have reservations. One supporter of merit pay said the proposed rules don’t do enough to guard against management abuse and asked that rank and file workers be given more input in drafting the final regulations. “I am somewhat concerned that some managers could abuse the system,” the writer said. “These new regulations are very top-down oriented, and the language concerning input from the mass of workers is very weak.”
Some comments were funny, such as this one received March 15: “Pay for performance — can we start with Congress?”
Another writer’s letter dripped with sarcasm: “Just as I’m nearing the years when I could be earning my high-three [salary] for retirement, you’re changing the pay system so that I will take a big hit in locality pay and no longer receive annual cost-of-living increases. Can you also pass a law to reduce my cost of living?”
Proposals to strip unions of much of their collective bargaining authority also drew jeers.
A senior federal employee who sees the need for a new system questioned proposals to give managers authority to assign employees new tasks, assess an employee’s performance and decide who gets raises with no input from the unions. “It is no secret to those of us who have been federal employees for a while and are completely honest that the employee, and not management, would seem to have all the rights, protections and privileges under the present system. I simply do not agree that to remove them all from one area and bestow them to another would correct that inequality,” the writer said.