House backs full collective bargaining rights at Defense

The House on Saturday approved a bipartisan spending bill amendment that would protect the collective bargaining and appeal rights of civilian employees as the Defense Department overhauls its personnel system.

The amendment, offered by Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., was added to the 2008 Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3222) and passed without objection by voice vote.

The provision would block funding for portions of the Pentagon's National Security Personnel System relating to employee collective bargaining and appeal rights. Inslee and other lawmakers have opposed NSPS and other personnel overhauls championed by the Bush administration on the grounds that such systems could lead to the appointment and promotion of workers based on their political views rather than merit.

"The administration cannot be allowed to destroy a century worth of protections against abuses in the federal employment system," Inslee said in a statement. "The Defense Department never should have implemented a personnel system that denies basic worker rights and weakens our nation's defense in the first place."

In May, an appeals court ruled that a 2004 law grants the Pentagon the authority to curtail the collective bargaining rights of employees until November 2009. That ruling reversed a district court decision that struck down the labor relations portions of the system.

While the amendment passed the House last year as part of the 2007 Defense appropriations bill, it was modified in House and Senate conference negotiations. Conferees tacked on a provision to last year's bill that restored all funding to the personnel reforms if the district court's ruling was overturned.

A coalition of federal labor unions last month filed a petition for full court review of the appeals decision. In the meantime, unions have been lobbying Congress to block funding or fully repeal the system.

"Not only is the passage of this amendment a huge step in the right direction toward bringing fairness back to the DoD workforce, it is also in the national security interest of our nation," said Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said Monday that the union will lobby the Senate to include the same language in its version of the appropriations bill.

Language to reform or repeal NSPS also has been included in House and Senate versions of the 2008 Defense authorization bills. In May, the House voted to repeal the existing authority of Defense to move forward on the labor relations portions of the system. Thus far, the full Senate has failed to move on its version of the authorization bill, which would permit the Pentagon to go forward with personnel reforms, as long as the system is consistent with existing federal labor relations law.

"At this point, we cannot count on the Defense authorization bill getting passed," Brown said. "That made it all the more important for Congress to strip funding for NSPS."

In addition to scaling back collective bargaining rights, the reforms are aimed at tying pay more closely to job performance. About 113,000 nonbargaining unit civilian employees have switched to the performance-based pay plan so far. Eventually, the system is slated to encompass 700,000 employees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.