September 27, 2005
Emily Ryan
(202) 639-6421
Adele Stan
(202) 639-6448

AFGE Tells Senate: True Personnel Reform Upholds Real Merit Principles

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a hearing today before members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), warned senators of the inevitable failure of new personnel systems designed for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD).

Both systems, Gage explained, encourage cronyism and favoritism by ignoring longstanding merit principles and allowing managers to reward or punish rank-and-file employees at will with little in the way of checks and balances. “We know that both systems are guaranteed to fail,” Gage told the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, which is part of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The only questions are the size of the scandals and lawsuits that are sure to arise from the inevitable corruption and mismanagement these systems encourage, and how much taxpayer money will be wasted on cronies and contractors.”

Today’s hearing focused on the role of collective bargaining in the new DHS and DoD systems (known, respectively, as MaxHR and the National Security Personnel System-NSPS), and on the level of funding needed to launch the new systems. As an example of how an alternative personnel system can work well for both management and rank-and-file, Gage told senators of a successful demonstration project that took place at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, which is home to military installations for several of the armed forces.

Gage explained that in the Fort Monmouth Acquisition Demonstration Project, AFGE Local 1904 retained full collective bargaining rights, leading to “a respectful relationship” between labor and management. In addition, the Acquisition Demo evaluates employees based on their contribution to the mission, Gage said, as opposed to an arbitrarily decided “performance” rating, as proposed for MaxHR and NSPS. Furthermore, the Acquisition Demo receives a separate line of funding for use in the alternative pay/reward system, leaving the regular pay adjustment system undisturbed.

AFGE has filed lawsuits challenging various aspects of the respective new systems designed for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. Last month, United States District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer issued a ruling that blocks DHS from implementing the labor-relations portion of its MaxHR plan.

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