The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Despite Setback, Some Federal Labor Changes to Move Forward

by Brendan Coyne

Aug. 18, 2005 – Last week’s federal court ruling blocking the implementation of new personnel rules within the Department of Homeland Security will have little or no effect on plans to implement similar changes within the Pentagon and throughout the federal bureaucracy, officials indicated this week.

Following the September 11 terror attacks, the Bush administration sought broad changes in the rules governing federal employees. Friday’s ruling blocked the implementation of DHS rules that had been based on those recommendations because they violate workers’ collective bargaining and grievance rights.

Tuesday, reported that Pentagon officials intend to move forward with plans to change the way civilian employees are hired, disciplined, promoted, deployed and paid. The Defense Department’s plans, which also change workers’ collective bargaining rights, are similar to those struck down by US District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer Friday.

A coalition of unions representing about 750,000 Defense Department workers has been fighting the rule changes since they were announced. They filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed alteration of personnel regulations earlier this year.

In June, the United Department of Defense Workers Coalition (UDWC), a group of more than 35 unions, published a detailed set of counter-proposals to the Pentagon’s plans that include increased flexibility in deployment, staffing levels and scheduling. The Pentagon rejected the proposals, UDWC said.

Yesterday, reported that officials with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the body responsible for most federal employees not with DoD or DHS, also have no intention of backing down on plans to revamp the way employee rules.

While the proposed OPM changes are not as heavily based on altering the nature of collective bargaining, the draft proposal of the Working for America Act does allow for federal agencies to drop bargaining in the event of an actual or potential emergency. The Act does not define "emergency" concretely, terming it a "situation requiring immediate action to carry out critical or essential agency functions."

According to the Washington Post, unions representing DHS personnel are seeking a meeting with Department head Michael Chertoff to discuss a compromise in the wake of Collyer’s ruling. No similar attempts have been reported on the part of unions representing DoD or other federal employees.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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