Coalition: Hands Off Benefits

Congress and the Clinton administration should keep their hands off federal employees' retirement benefits when they look for budget savings, a coalition of federal professional and managerial organizations says.

The Coalition for Effective Change, a council of 32 organizations, including the Senior Executives Association, the Federal Managers Association and Blacks in Government, says in a recent position paper that the federal retirement system has taken enough budget blows, and any more cuts would be unfair to federal employees.

"No other group has made such contributions to reducing the deficit as federal employees, retirees and their families," the coalition charges. "To make any more unjustified changes to federal pay and benefits in the name of deficit reduction would be inequitable and unfair, and would constitute discrimination against federal civil servants, making them bear the brunt of the country's effort to reduce its deficit and debt."

Each year since the group was founded in 1994, the coalition has released position papers on issues concerning federal professionals, managers and executives. This year the coalition focused on seven topics: protecting retirement, improving labor-management relations, improving support for the Senior Executive Service, revamping performance management, promoting employee-friendly downsizing, addressing human resource problems and safeguarding merit principles.

The coalition says alternative personnel systems being tested at various agencies need to be regulated so supervisors don't disregard statutory safeguards for civil servants. As agencies decentralize human resources management, they may open themselves to abuses, including nepotism and unequal treatment of employees, the coalition warns. In addition, employees doing the same work at the same level in different agencies or even different offices in the same agency may wind up with significantly different levels of compensation.

"Employees should be paid on the basis of what they do and how well they do it, not on the basis of which agency, or which agency subcomponent, employs them," the coalition says.

The coalition also finds fault with the federal employee complaint process. Both employees who file complaints and agency offciials who process them say dispute resolution is confusing, complex and takes too long. For example, employee complaints that go beyond the agency level may be handled by one or more of the following: the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Special Counsel. The coalition says overlap among the dispute handlers should be eliminated by combining some of them or by creating a single appeals board.

In the area of labor-management relations, the coalition recommends that union representatives minimize the amount of official time they spend on union business, and that labor-management partnerships include representatives of professional and managerial associations.

The coalition has posted copies of its position papers on the World Wide Web.

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