Outsourcing is top union concern for Bush administration

The leaders of the two largest federal employee unions predicted that outsourcing of federal jobs will be among the toughest issues to tackle in a Bush administration. "This may be an area where we'll need to work the hardest with them," said Bobby Harnage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. During his campaign for the White House, Bush said that, if elected, he would eliminate 40,000 middle management jobs in the federal government over the next five years and open to competition at least half of all jobs not defined as "inherently governmental." Colleen M. Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, said NTEU will strongly encourage President-elect Bush not to pursue such proposals. Rather, the union will make passage of the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act (TRAC) a priority in the 107th Congress, she said. The TRAC Act would require federal agencies to use cost-benefit analyses to justify current outside contracts. It would also require that government workers be considered for jobs before those duties are outsourced. Harnage also named the TRAC Act as one of AFGE's legislative priorities for 2001. "I think it's very premature to set a number of managers that he's going to eliminate. If [Bush] intends to make government smaller, I hope he'll rightsize it rather than downsize it," Harnage said. The power to bargain over "permissive" issues is another top priority for labor unions. Permissive issues are those that federal managers are permitted, but not required, to negotiate with labor unions. President Clinton's 1993 Executive Order 12871 called on federal managers to negotiate with unions over permissive issues, including the numbers of jobs in agencies, the classification of positions and the technology provided to employees. But agencies largely ignored that order. "Only time will tell what President-elect Bush's position on partnership is," Harnage said. "We didn't see any enforcement of that executive order in the current administration, so we hope that [Bush] may be even better than this administration." Harnage and Kelley agreed that closing the gap between private and public sector pay rates will be a final challenge in the next administration. "We need to develop a credible system to close the gap," Kelley said. Harnage said he was optimistic that Bush may be the person to do the job. President George Bush signed the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) in 1990. The act created a formula to close the gap over 10 years beginning in 1994, but the full pay raises needed to close the gap have never been enacted. "Maybe the son will make sure that a law that his father signed is actually enacted," Harnage said.
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