OPM backs management groups seeking to participate in labor forums

The government's human resources chief is asking federal agencies to give management associations a seat at labor forum discussions from which they've been excluded.

In a July 20 memo, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry reminded agency heads to consult with organizations representing federal supervisors on issues affecting agency operations, personnel management and employee effectiveness. Managers should be included in decision-making processes and notified of any changes in a timely manner even if they are not part of an association, he wrote.

Members of the Government Management Coalition in April sent a letter to Berry and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients, who co-chairs the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations, asking to be included in forums designed to improve communication between agency leadership, employees and managers. Council members in May 2010 expressed support for management associations' participation, but representatives say little progress has been made.

"Not a single association has been allowed to participate in the forums, and in some cases, our associations have been actively excluded," they wrote. "More troubling, the associations are not part of the dialogue about issues and decisions discussed in pre-decisional involvement or the forums, despite the fact our members are directly responsible for carrying out the decisions of the forums."

Management associations already have consultation rights in some agencies. Though these organizations are actively involved in council meetings, there is nothing mandating that they be included in agency-level forums, and the council does not have to approve their participation. According to one organization's representative, Berry's memo simply reminds agencies that may not be aware of those rights that management associations can ask to participate in forum discussions.

"Our folks have the advantage to say here's why this might work," said Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association. "First- and second-line supervisors are being left out of the conversation when they have to implement what forums decide."

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