The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Homeland Security Looks to Upend Workersâ€TM Rights Ruling

by Brendan Coyne

Aug. 30, 2005 – Responding to a court decision striking down a number of proposed workplace personnel rule changes, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week filed a motion seeking clarification and limits on the judge’s ruling. The move came about a week after DHS officials met with leaders of five federal employee unions to discuss the overhaul.

In the motion, DHS asks United States District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer to revise her August 12 decision halting the implementation of major changes in the way workers are promoted, deployed, disciplined and paid. Homeland Security is requesting that Collyer "refrain from invalidating any more of the regulation than is necessary."

Government officials contend that a dramatic overhaul of federal labor rules is necessary in order for departments to run more efficiently and effectively. Homeland Security announced the changes in late January, citing a need to "continue to build the Nation’s first line of defense."

Unions representing federal workers have been fighting the proposed DHS changes since they were announced. In statements to the press, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) and American Federation of Government Employees said they will continue to oppose any attempts to implement the new regulations.

"No matter where this battle takes us – whether in the courts or on Capitol Hill – NTEU will continue to stand firm against these rules that are not just unfair, but illegal," NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley said yesterday.

Reportedly, DHS is proposing that a review board for personnel issues be allowed to move forward, in addition to seeking freedom to give supervisors more leeway in working with staff.

On key staffing issues, the Department wants to be free from collective bargaining constraints, a position in direct opposition to Collyer’s finding that the proposed rules undermine workers’ right to collectively negotiate a binding contract. Friday’s proposal from DHS would bar officials from breaking contracts but reserves the right to ignore specific staffing items when security issues demand quick action.

Following a meeting with DHS Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson two weeks ago, Kelley expressed hope that unions and the federal government could work out a plan together, a point she reiterated in a statement Friday.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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