Unions react positively to OPM call for pay reform
Federal unions say they stand ready to work with the Office of Personnel Management director to reform the government's pay system, but they favor a conservative approach.
"We feel very confident that [OPM Director] John Berry understands the value of the General Schedule pay system," said Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees. "To the extent that he wants to work on performance appraisal systems, we're eager to talk to him about that, within the context of the General Schedule."
During a meeting with reporters last week, Berry called the current system "balkanized to the point of a risk of failure," and said he would push for reform of the federal civil service system, with the goal of establishing governmentwide pay for performance. He said the pay system should be more flexible and reward good employees while holding poor performers more accountable.
Federal unions have opposed pay-for-performance plans put in place by the previous administration -- such as the Defense Department's National Security Personnel System -- out of concern that those plans could increase the risk of favoritism.
Richard Brown, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said on Monday that he was confident Berry would not model any pay reforms on those designed by the Bush administration.
"Director Berry assured me that this is not an attempt by OPM to repackage what we feel are ill-conceived Bush-era pay schemes," Brown said. "He hopes to shape a new approach to performance management, not just a reward system for star performers."
But Moten said AFGE was still opposed to the idea of replacing the General Schedule system, pointing to NSPS as justification, which she called an "utter and complete disaster."
"We have some real problems with the wholesale replacement of the General Schedule," Moten said. "They'd have to go pretty far to convince us otherwise, and I don't think that would happen."
National Treasury Employees Union officials also have said they will work with Berry on reforms to the pay system. "We anticipate a new, more collaborative approach from the new administration and welcome an exchange of ideas," Colleen Kelley said in a May 27 statement released after Berry's press briefing.
The Office of Personnel Management did not return calls for comment in time for publication.