Labor-management council urges closer look at delinquent agencies

Director John Berry says OPM will let agencies know where they stand. Director John Berry says OPM will let agencies know where they stand. Kevin Dietsch/Newscom
This story has been updated from the original version.

Members of the government's council on labor-management relations are concerned that some federal agencies are making only a minimal effort to boost communication and collaboration with employees.

During the council's monthly meeting on Wednesday, Obama administration officials said anecdotal evidence shows that forums designed to improve the relationship between federal managers and labor representatives appear to be driving meaningful change. But union leaders stressed that the success stories shouldn't overshadow agencies that aren't making the cut.

"We can't go to the president and say there are only success stories," said Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. "There aren't . . . it's great to explore success stories and why they happened and can we emulate them, but it's also important to see where we haven't succeeded and why not and what can we do about it."

The council has a tentative deadline in November to submit a report to President Obama evaluating the results of agency efforts and recommending next steps.

According to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, frustration continues over the lack of progress at the Social Security Administration. Pre-decisional involvement, in which management engages with labor representatives prior to making decisions that affect employees' daily work, is not yet in place, Berry said, adding this is a "major speed bump in terms of progress of their effort and a major distraction."

An SSA spokeswoman said the agency is actively engaged with unions representing its employees and continues to work with IFPTE and the National Treasury Employees Union to develop individual forums.

Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, asked that the council take a broader view of agencies' progress on standing up forums and hear reports from delinquent agencies. Berry said OPM will follow up with agencies to let them know where they stand and to engage them in the process.

"My goal in this is not to have a bell curve, but nor are we going to look the other way," Berry said. "This isn't about Candy Land."

Michael Filler, director of public services at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said the metrics working group is close to finalizing a webinar series to educate forum members on developing or refining their tools for assessing progress.

Council members also are participating in a working group with representatives from the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to improve government's performance management system. The group in September will present recommendations to the labor-management council. In March, Berry said the discussion will not include pay for performance.

The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations was created through a 2009 executive order. Its next meeting is scheduled for July 20.

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