May 29, 2007
Michael Victorian
(202) 639-6405

Sen. Byrd Places Mine Safety and Health Work Off Limits to Contractors

(WASHINGTON) – Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) included a provision, Section 6602, in the recent supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 2206, permanently placing mine safety and health functions off limits to privatization. The language introduced by Chairman Byrd classifies all 2,240 Mine and Safety Health Administration (MSHA) employees as “inherently governmental” and therefore exempt from privatization review.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) commends Chairman Byrd for ensuring that MSHA employees will not be subject to future privatization reviews and potential contracting out.

“This legislation allows the dedicated employees of the MSHA to focus completely on the job of enforcing safety and health standards at the nation’s mines,” said John Gage AFGE national president, “instead of worrying about the latest costly and controversial Office Management and Budget A-76 boondoggle.”

Although the language is included in the appropriations bill, the provision provided by Sen. Byrd will not be subject to customary renewal requirements. Additionally, Chairman Byrd’s provision contains language that excludes funds provided to MSHA under the 2007 continuing resolution from being used for privatization studies or public-private competitions under the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76.

While this is a substantial victory for MSHA employees, AFGE encourages other lawmakers to protect employees throughout the Department of Labor (DoL). Recently, federal employees in several DoL agencies, including MSHA lost a privatization review of 300 administrative support staff job functions.

“The privatization problem at the DoL is department wide,” added Gage. “We urge other lawmakers to follow the Chairman’s lead and ensure that all of the DoL agencies involved in the contracting out process are protected as well.”

Since 2004, federal employees in the DoL have been challenged in A-76 public-private competitions 26 times. They have won all but three. These resounding victories display the superior quality of the federal workforce, but the department refuses to seek alternatives to the A-76 process or to allow federal employees to compete for new work or contracted out work.

“Ultimately, the best way to deal with the privatization at DoL will be to implement a department wide prohibition on contracting out.”

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