Washington, D.C.—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today testified before a Senate subcommittee of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to voice its objection to the development and implementation of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). AFGE says the system will destroy civilian defense worker morale and threaten national security.
John Gage, president of AFGE, and Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, testified on behalf of the United DoD Workers Coalition (UDWC), a group comprised of 36 unions representing the vast majority of DoD’s 770,000 civilian employees. Gage and Junemann testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. During the hearing, both men expressed their concerns that NSPS needlessly reduces employee rights, potentially reduces pay, does not comply with labor management law and amounts to a waste of the nation’s resources.
“The system they envision will result in a demoralized workforce comprised of employees who know that they have been relegated to second-class citizenship,” Gage testified. “This system will encourage experienced employees to seek employment elsewhere and will deter qualified candidates from considering a career at DoD. It will put DoD at a competitive disadvantage, with consequent impact on its effectiveness. That is the real tragedy.”
Gage expressed strong opposition to DoD’s plan to replace the current general schedule (GS) with a “pay-for-performance” system and described the changes as wasteful and detrimental to the morale and teamwork of the civilian DoD workforce.
“No objective data or reliable information exists to show that such a system will enhance the efficiency of DoD operations or promote national security and defense,” said Gage. “One thing, however, is clear. The design, creation and administration of what DoD has proposed will be complex and costly. A new level of bureaucracy would have to be created.”
“Critical decisions on pay rates must be made in public forums like the U.S. Congress or the Federal Salary Council, where employees and their representatives can witness the process and have the opportunity to influence its outcome through collective bargaining,” Gage testified.
“If this system is implemented, employees will have no basis on which to predict their salaries from year to year, despite meeting or exceeding all performance expectations identified by DoD. Since DoD has said that the pay system must be ‘budget neutral’ and that no new money will be put in the system, the ‘pay-for-performance’ element of the proposal will pit employees against one another for allegedly performance-based increases. Making DoD employees compete among themselves for pay increases that will undermine the spirit of cooperation and teamwork needed to keep our country safe at home and abroad.”
In his testimony, Junemann suggested that DoD may have violated labor relations law when it failed to involve employee representatives during the development of NSPS.
“The law [the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, Section 9902 (m)] describes a very specific manner of statutory collaboration with time lines, which have not been followed,” Junemann testified. “The law requires that employee representatives participate in, not simply be notified of, the development of the system. We ask that the Subcommittee investigate DoD’s failure to enforce or observe this aspect of the law.”
Junemann added, “As you know, Public Law 108-136 protects the rights of employees to organize, bargain collectively and to participate through labor organizations of their own choosing in decisions that affect them. Specifically, the UDWC has reiterated that Congress intended to have the NSPS keep the protections which DoD proposals attempt to eliminate.”
In addition to adversely affecting pay, destroying morale and violating labor relations laws, Gage and Juneman informed the Subcommittee that NSPS would also severely undermine employee appeal rights.
“Any new system should, as the law requires, protect the due process rights of employees and provide them with fair treatment,” said Gage. “Employees must have the right to a full and fair hearing of adverse action appeals before an impartial and independent decision maker.”
Finally, Gage and Juneman urged immediate and continued oversight by Congress to avoid a colossal system-wide failure at DoD.
“It is simply wrong to ask us to accept systems that establish so few rules and leave so much to the discretion of current and future officials,” Gage testified. “As the representatives of DoD employees, it is our responsibility to protect them from vague systems, built on discretionary authority that is subject to abuse.”