February 09, 2005
Adele Stan

Emily Ryan

Defense Workers’ Unions To Sue Pentagon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Defense (DoD) is proposing a new set of regulations that could have grave implications for safety of America’s fighting men and women, and for safeguarding the public coffers. In its new National Security Personnel System (NSPS), also known as the Rumsfeld plan, the Department of Defense has significantly narrowed employees’ rights to collective bargaining and all but eliminated the due process rights that enable employees to speak with confidence when they see wrongdoing or mismanagement.

“To call this a ‘National Security’ system is a joke,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “If anything, the Rumsfeld plan makes the nation less secure.”

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), together with the Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT), the Laborers International Union, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) will file, as soon as the new personnel regulations are published, a law suit in federal court that challenges the new work rules on a statutory basis.

In defiance of the United States Congress, the Defense Department refused to consult with the unions that represent the department’s employees, as called for in the defense authorization legislation that authorized the creation of the new personnel system, and went ahead in issuing its proposed rule changes in violation of section 9902(m) of the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2004.

“You would think that if anybody had an obligation to follow the law, it would be the Department of Defense,” Gage continued. “Instead of working with the longstanding representatives of the military’s loyal civilian employees, the Pentagon apparently would rather duke this out in federal court.”

The proposed regulations for DoD personnel revoke most due process rights (rendering whistleblower protections moot), allow supervisors to punish employees in their paychecks, create a so-called “pay-for-performance” system that pits employees against each other for pay increases, and end all meaningful collective bargaining.

In the case of a reduction in force (RIF), a one-year employee with an “outstanding” rating would be retained over a 20-year employees with an “excellent” rating. When disciplinary actions are appealed to either the Merit systems Protection Board or an arbitrator, neither would be able to substitute a lesser penalty unless the penalty was “wholly unjustifiable,” an impossible standard to overcome. For some alleged offenses, even the manager proposing the discipline would not be able to propose anything short of removal.

“As with similar regulations handed down last week for its employees by the Department of Homeland Security, these new work rules ultimately shortchange the American taxpayer,” added AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth. “In the Pentagon and at military installations across the country, the fox will now have ultimate watch over the chicken coop. With managers, under the new system, having new ways to retaliate against employees who challenge management decisions, what will become of employees who blow the whistle on pork-loaded military contracts, or who speak on behalf of soldiers in need of equipment?

“Every day, we hear of more punitive measures taken against government employees more loyal to the American people than to the political appointees who lead their agencies,” Roth continued. “The narrowed scope of bargaining in the new regulations allows management to implement transfers and shift changes with impunity. Recent reports cite a lack of accountability in the upper reaches of the Pentagon. These new rules would only intensify that problem.”

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