The Homeland Security Department sought to clarify proposed workplace rules that a federal judge said violated employee rights, but it stood by its plans to overhaul personnel and pay regulations.
Responding to the U.S. District Court ruling two weeks ago, the department said Friday it is continuing to seek expanded management rights and flexible labor relations rules.
It is also still pushing for the creation of an internal labor relations panel whose members are appointed by the Homeland Security secretary -- which could erode the authority of an independent panel that reviews personnel disputes between department managers and worker unions.
In a motion filed Friday with the court, administration lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer to amend her earlier ruling so the department could proceed with its new labor rules. They asked the court to "limit the scope of its injunction to the specific provisions found to be invalid."
A department memo said the proposed rules "allow us to create a flexible and mission-focused human resources program at DHS so that we are better able to reward strong employees and maintain the flexibility to deploy the DHS work force to meet the country's security needs."
Unions representing 60,000 of Homeland Security's 170,000 employees have opposed the personnel plans since they were announced in January.
"We had hoped that Judge Collyer's decision would bring all parties involved to the bargaining table," John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Friday.
"We are most disappointed that the new administration at DHS didn't see the judge's decision as an opportunity to implement a more balanced personnel system," he said.
Congress passed the federal Homeland Security Act in 2002 in an effort to give department officials more flexibility to respond quickly to terrorist threats.
The proposed rules would replace seniority-based worker salary levels with a merit pay system. They would also give department managers broad authority to change workers' shifts and duties without delay or much advance notice.
In an Aug. 12 ruling, Collyer struck down parts of the regulations that she said would fail to protect workers' right to bargain collectively and would give managers unchecked authority to change negotiated positions.
However, Collyer said she "would be willing to entertain" another explanation from Homeland Security justifying the rules.
In Friday's filing, Homeland Security's lawyers asked Collyer to "refrain from invalidating any more of the regulation than is necessary."
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, responded, "NTEU believes that all aspects of the personnel system challenged in the case are inextricably intertwined with one another and that unless the entire system is overhauled to ensure collective bargaining as Congress required, DHS cannot lawfully move forward."