Defense Department's Union Rules Challenged
Three House Democrats are urging colleagues to revoke key parts of new personnel rules that would curb union rights at the Defense Department, contending the rules are a "bad deal" for Defense civil service employees.
"We have heard from our constituents and other DOD civilian workers across the country that the system is taking its toll on the morale of this loyal workforce," Reps. Tom Allen (D-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) wrote.
The three are asking fellow House members to sign a letter calling on House and Senate negotiators to include provisions in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill that would repeal parts of the new National Security Personnel System, known as NSPS.
The new personnel system permits the Pentagon to sharply curb union rights and to require employees to appeal major disciplinary actions to agency officials before they can gain access to an independent board and to the courts.
The Pentagon has not moved to implement those changes, in part because of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of unions and because officials are waiting to see whether Congress, with Democrats in control, will block the modifications.
Congress in 2003 granted authority to the secretary of defense to overhaul the pay and personnel rules for Defense civilians after the Bush administration complained that the regular civil service system was outdated and too cumbersome to allow rapid response to global events. Officials said they wanted a system that would make it easier for managers to reward their best workers and to deal more effectively with employees performing at unsatisfactory or unacceptable levels.
But a coalition of 36 labor organizations, including the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the Metal Trades Department, the AFL-CIO and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, have lobbied against rules that would curtail their bargaining rights.
The unions contend the rules would limit workplace issues that could be put on the table for negotiations, allow the defense secretary to break contracts normally considered binding and stop them from taking labor-management disputes to independent third parties for review.
Because changes in pay practices have not been challenged by unions, the Pentagon has been phasing in a new pay-for-performance system. By January, it will cover about 130,000 non-unionized Defense civilians.
If completed as planned, up to 700,000 employees would convert to the NSPS, with most leaving two government-wide systems, the General Schedule, which mostly applies to white-collar employees, and the Federal Wage System, which covers blue-collar government workers.
In their letter, Allen, Van Hollen and Inslee assert that Pentagon leaders "went far beyond the authority granted by Congress" in creating the NSPS, which they argue "needlessly eviscerates the rights of the DOD workforce."
The three urged their colleagues to express support for including provisions in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill that would restore full collective bargaining rights to unions, return Defense civilians to the disciplinary appeals process used by most other government workers, exempt blue-collar workers from the NSPS and exempt employees at Defense science and research labs from the NSPS.