April 19, 2007
Emily Ryan
(202) 639-6421

Homeland Security Union Leader Testifies on DHS' Morale Crisis

(WASHINGTON) - Profound problems and low employee morale at the Department of Homeland Security are no surprise, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox said before Congress earlier today. Cox testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight on “Addressing the Department of Homeland Security’s Morale Crisis.”

Regarding DHS’ new personnel system, Cox said that it was a “prescription guaranteed to increase the fear, suspicion and anxiety of employees and their managers.

“Forging a unified department would require good communications, a major investment in training, a respect for employees, and the time and patience to do the job right,” he added. “Instead, DHS chose to develop a new personnel system, radically different from the one employees had known for years … DHS embarked on a massive upheaval of the pay, performance, classification, labor relations, adverse actions, and appeals systems.

“DHS employees, in common with other federal employees, say that favoritism and poor management are big problems in their workplaces and they don’t have confidence in their agency’s performance management system. The new DHS system is unlikely to change that and can only make things worse if the department attempts make major changes in employees’ pay based on it,” Cox said.

“AFGE applauds the leadership of Committee Member Sheila Jackson Lee and members of the Committee on Homeland Security for reporting H.R. 1684 to the full House with provisions that repeal the remaining elements of the so-called MaxHR program that relate to employee appeal rights and performance management goals. This is particularly significant as DHS has recently stated its intention to implement both sections of its regulations despite the likelihood that they will be overturned in federal court. The legislation also restores statutory authority for collective bargaining rights because the DHS regulations establishing a new collective bargaining system have been overturned by the courts.

“H.R. 1684 will greatly strengthen our nation’s overall homeland security by recognizing the contribution of the men and women on the front lines and providing the resources necessary to ensure that they are the best trained, best-equipped border protection force in the world today.

“Our DHS members understand the importance of their jobs, and are committed to doing all they can to keep the U.S. safe. It is little to ask that they be treated with fairness, dignity and respect as they continue to do so,” Cox said.

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