The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will soon announce a new-and-improved version of the plan it originally intended to put in place next month to change the way federal white collar workers are paid, promoted and fired.

OPM originally proposed to devalue seniority and instead link within-grade raises, promotions and layoffs to workers' most recent performance rating. The proposal sent shock waves through government where seniority is considered an essential form of insulation to protect career employes from the wrath of incoming politicians.

Now, however, the personnel agency is doing a "top to bottom" overhaul of its original package. OPM says the August effective date is off and no rules change will be made until the new package comes out and has been considered.

Under OPM's original proposal, within-grade pay raises, which now go to federal workers every one to three years based on their time in grade, would be linked to a new government-wide performance rating system. Time in grade would mean nothing unless the worker also got a good performance rating. OPM also proposed that the last-hired-first-fired rule during layoffs (RIFS) be scrapped in favor of a system linking job security to performance.

The House is working on legislation that would block the rules changes permanently, and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is proposing a limited test of the new rules, which agencies would have to negotiate with unions.

Reacting to comments from agencies--and barbs from Congress--OPM is working on a new performance-incentive system it is convinced will fly.

The new plan would consider an employe's last three performance ratings when major personnel actions--raises or RIFs--were due. Most of the criticism of the original OPM plan is based on its emphasis on using a single performance rating to determine raises or firings.

OPM insiders say the new revised rules will satisfy most critics of their original plan. We shall see!