February 24, 2004
Enid Doggett
Adele Stan
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Asks Congress for “Vigilant Oversight” Over Proposed Department of Homeland Security Personnel System

(WASHINGTON, DC)—John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today called the personnel system developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seriously flawed and said Congressional oversight is needed. In testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Government Reform Committee, Gage said the DHS apparently not only ignored a six-month collaboration among its management, unions and staff from the Office of Personnel Management but also ignored extensive academic research. Gage added that under the proposed regulations one third of DHS employees are excluded from full union representation.

“That the entire Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—almost 35 percent of the DHS workforce—is refused even the limited rights afforded the rest of the department’s employees,” said John Gage, “shows the weakness in the administration’s plan. How does the demoralization of a front-line force enhance national security?”

Gage told the panel, “We are deeply disappointed with the outcome of this process.” “For the two thirds of the DHS workforce who have full union rights, this plan has many troubling aspects,” Gage asserted. “Collective bargaining is severely undermined, neutrality is eliminated in the enforcement of labor-management agreements and a destructive, so-called ‘pay-for-performance’ scheme is introduced.”

On the subject of so-called ‘pay for performance,’ Gage pointed out that “the system is set up in such a way that one employee does better if more of his or her co-workers do poorly. This is simply a bad way of doing business.”

Despite his criticism, Gage expressed hope that some of the most egregious aspects of the proposal could be changed. “I met with Secretary Ridge earlier this month and had meaningful and substantive discussions on some of the issues presented by management’s proposal,” Gage told the committees. “The Secretary has committed to continue these discussions, and we expect that the result will be substantial changes in the proposed regulations.”

The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

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