Washington—Hundreds of federal employees from the Department of Defense (DOD) today rallied and then marched to Capitol Hill to protest the proposed implementation of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) within DOD. The NSPS will drastically overhaul existing civil service personnel regulations and will soon be implemented at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The rally and march were preceded by a news conference held during the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) 2005 Legislative and Grassroots Mobilizing conference. During the news conference, John Gage, AFGE national president, and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, addressed conference attendees and members of the media on the effect the proposed changes will have on federal workers.
“Just as with DHS, the NSPS changes will do more than just modify DOD’s existing system,” said Gage. “These changes will jeopardize public safety and national security by taking away employee protections that allow workers to speak freely when they see wrongdoing or mismanagement.”
“Let’s be clear,” said Sweeney. “The proposed changes in the civil service personnel rules, the NSPS, do not represent mere adjustments. They are a massive overhaul that will gut pay standards, appeal rights and collective bargaining rights. It is a wholesale attack on DOD workers’ ability to get their job done.”
Following the lead of the DHS, the DOD’s proposed changes will affect the agency’s 700,000 civilian employees by replacing the civil service system and redefining pay, appeal rights and collective bargaining to achieve “management flexibility.” The new system is the result of legislation passed by Congress in 2003, at the request of the Bush administration, authorizing the Secretary of Defense to make the changes. An initial outline of proposals was released in February 2004 and was met by widespread criticism from employees and their unions, including AFGE.
“NSPS means that the DOD will soon get the opportunity to treat their employees as if they were second-class citizens,” said Gage. “NSPS will put the squeeze on employees by enabling the agency to mess around with pay, work schedules, leave and evaluations without any meaningful appeals rights.”
Once the proposed regulations are unveiled, a 60-day consultative period with the unions representing DOD will begin. AFGE, along with a coalition of other labor unions, plan to file a lawsuit in response.
“The Bush Administration is now stepping out way beyond any appropriate flexibility in work rules and into radically undermining good pay, decent workplace standards and workers rights throughout the federal workforces,” said Sweeney. “We are here to tell the Bush administration that the attack on workers’ rights ends here.”
Following the news conference, about 300 DOD protestors gathered and then marched up Constitution Avenue, carrying various signs and banners, to denounce the NSPS.
The AFGE 2005 Legislative and Grassroots Mobilizing Conference is being held until Feb. 10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, D.C. For more information on AFGE’s position on the NSPS and its effect on federal workers, please contact the AFGE Communications Department at 202-639-6419.