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Blunt Talk on Union Web Site Spotlights Frustration Over Labor Relations Changes

Democrats and federal unions fought a delaying action, but the 2002 midterm elections put Republicans in control of the Senate. The White House got legislation that permits an overhaul of labor relations at the two departments.

For the past few months, the departments have been talking with unions about creating a more streamlined labor-management system. Unions may lose some of their clout in the two departments when regulations are published this year.

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Ault contends that the White House never "clearly defined what was broken and needed to be fixed" and believes that consultations between unions and the departments, as directed by Congress, are a poor substitute for negotiations that lead to contractual agreements.

At the Pentagon, Ault said, "there hasn't been any trust across the table, and to do something this broad and sweeping without building some trust is impossible."

Joyce K. Frank, spokeswoman for the project office launching the new Defense civil service system, said, "We recognize there will be areas of disagreement" but said future meetings offer opportunities for "meaningful dialogue."

The department, she said, has "every confidence" in the "work ethic and patriotism" of Metal Trades employees.

On his Web site this month, Ault has posted another message to members of the Metal Trades union, which represents about 46,000 Defense employees at naval shipyards and other installations.

He acknowledged hearing criticism "that I am unnecessarily confrontational, use inflammatory terms that aren't helpful to the process and am an 'obstructionist.' "

Ault asserted that "nothing we do is being given real consideration. The management teams are simply going through the motions. . . ."

Actually, Ault concluded, "all of this is going to end up being decided in federal courts, so as I see it we gain nothing by being led quietly to slaughter, talking nice and being polite."

Talk Shows

Ira L. Hobbs, chief information officer at the Treasury Department, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Is White a Part of Diversity?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com

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