Page 2 of 2   <      

Court Blocks DOD's New Rules for Workers

Congress, which has yet to embrace the administration's call for restructuring federal pay, appears even less likely to do so if the two departments at the vanguard of the effort go back to the drawing board or remain tied up in court.

Mary E. Lacey, program executive officer for the National Security Personnel System, said the ruling would not change the Pentagon's plans to move the first wave of 11,000 defense employees into the new pay and personnel systems at the end of April, because the rollout involves only non-union employees, who do not participate in collective bargaining. She conceded, however, that the legal setbacks at DHS and Defense will complicate efforts to win employee support for the new system.

"Would I prefer we didn't have this situation? Absolutely," Lacey said. "But I believe we're right, and we are going to proceed."

Sullivan's decision contained a few setbacks for the unions. He ruled that the Pentagon has much broader authority to depart from standard federal labor relations systems than the unions had contended. And he concluded that, despite union protestations of a "sham" process, defense officials had met their obligation to consult with unions in developing the new system. Both determinations could limit the unions' role in shaping any changes to the system if a new drafting process begins.

While "the defendants may not have met Congress' requirements with enthusiasm, the court finds no evidence that defendants acted in bad faith," Sullivan wrote.

Gage said AFGE is not fighting to maintain the status quo and some change appears inevitable.

"We're not against change, but these changes were very transparent [in] what they were about," he said. "It was really to strip away unions from DOD and to take away any semblance of due process for employees."

Staff writers Stephen Barr and Eric Yoder contributed to this report.

<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company