(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today applauded Congress’ action to hold the Department of Defense accountable by including language in the Defense Authorization bill to restore collective bargaining and appeal rights to the proposed National Security Personnel System (NSPS). With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Congress voted and the president signed into law the bill restoring collective bargaining rights for civilian employees of the Department of Defense (DoD) working under NSPS, ending months of Congressional negotiations over the Pentagon’s controversial personnel system.
Using the false rhetoric of terror, DoD misled the Congress about their intentions to preserve collective bargaining and ensure a fair appeals process governing suspensions and terminations. The court suits brought by the unions clearly established that DoD clearly intended to strip employees of their rights to a fair hearing and their right to bargaining collectively in contravention to DoD’s false promises.
These core rights not only assure fairness for employees, but these rights are vital to a merit based career civil service instead of a politicized system. The firing and hiring process in the Department of Justice became highly politicized. NSPS would have opened up DoD to that kind of chicanery on a much bigger scale.
While Congress made some adjustments in the NSPS pay system, that program is also seriously flawed. AFGE will continue its efforts to see that the NSPS pay system is properly reformed as well.
“We, along with our partner unions in the Defense Workers Coalition, have been fighting for four long years to thwart this underhanded attack on fundamental rights and principles that are crucial to our democracy. It is in the best interest of the DoD civilian workers, military service members, and the American public that the NSPS be overturned,” said John Gage, AFGE national president.
AFGE, which has also been pursuing judicial action to guarantee employee rights in the NSPS system, will drop its current lawsuit against the Department of Defense, as the employee rights issues have been effectively corrected in the new legislation.
“This has been a monumental clash between the federal unions and the right wing ideologues of this administration over their intent on undermining a merit civil service and destroying the right of middle class Americans to have a voice in the workplace,” added Gage.
In addition to the reforms made to NSPS, the Defense Authorization bill also included significant privatization reforms long sought by AFGE activists. While there are specific DoD privatization reforms included in the bill, additional reforms benefit all federal employees laying down the framework for government-wide contracting out reform.
Section 322: Health care and retirement costs would be excluded from the DoD contracting out cost comparison process. Competitions could focus on who could do the job better, as opposed to whether contractors could get an unfair advantage by shortchanging their employees on benefits.
Section 323: The revised OMB Circular A-76 requires federal employees—but not contractors—to be reviewed at the end of their performance periods, automatically. This provision would leave that determination to DoD officials.
Section 324: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness would be required to publish guidelines for insourcing new work and contracted out work to ensure that federal employees have opportunities to perform such work on a regular basis. Special consideration is given for contracted out work that is actually inherently governmental, poorly performed, or was given to contractors without competition, along with new work that is similar to work previously performed by federal employees or closely associated with inherently governmental work. In such instances, the OMB Circular A-76 process would not be required. The Inspector General would be assigned to ensure compliance with this new insourcing section.
Section 325: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would be prohibited from requiring or directing DoD to begin, continue, or complete a privatization review. Similarly, DoD would be prohibited from beginning, continuing, or completing a privatization review because of a requirement or direction from OMB. The Inspector General would be assigned to ensure compliance with this new prohibition.
Section 326: Federal employees in all agencies would finally have the opportunity to appeal contracting out decisions to the Government Accountability Office, a right contractors have long enjoyed.
Section 327: Federal employees in non-DoD agencies would have a permanent and rigorous right to compete before their work—for functions involving more than ten employees—is converted to contractor performance. The safeguards and Congressional notification would be stronger than those currently afforded non-DoD federal employees. The competition process for non-DoD employees would be identical to the process already in place for DoD employees.
Section 807: Requires DoD to establish a contractor inventory to track the cost and size of the contractor workforce in the macro as well as the micro context. The inventory would be used to select contracts for insourcing.
“AFGE is very grateful to Chairmen Ike Skelton and Carl Levin and Readiness Chairmen Solomon Ortiz and Daniel Akaka,” said Gage. “We are obviously very grateful as well to our champions on the House side—Representatives Nancy Boyda, Gene Taylor, Elijah Cummings, and Carol Shea-Porter—as well as the Senate side—Senators Edward Kennedy, Barbara Mikulski, Joe Lieberman, and Claire McCaskill. And, obviously, without a lot of bipartisan support from a host of other lawmakers, both Republican and Democratic, this accomplishment would never have happened.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.