Employee groups criticize Obama’s deficit-cutting plan

Labor groups grilled administration officials about President Obama's deficit reduction plan at the September meeting of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations on Wednesday.

As Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry outlined the details of the president's plan, the proposal to raise employee retirement contributions drew the most fire.

"We think the $60 billion the employees have forgone was more than sufficient," said Brian DeWyngaert of the American Federation of Government Employees. "We certainly see this as a tax increase on people who are making $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000 a year. You should all be fighting in the opposite direction."

Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, called the overall plan "fair and balanced." He also applauded the proposal to create a commission on federal public service reform, which could include council members, saying it would benefit the labor-management council. "There's so much we can do administratively, this should actually complement our work," Zients said. "This commission should in no way slow down our work."

But that did not mollify labor leaders.

Bill Dougan, president of National Federation of Federal Employees, spoke out against the lack of consultation with federal labor unions. "I don't think it's right that I have to learn what the president is proposing, in terms of adverse impacts on what I what represent, by reading the newspaper or seeing it on television. At least brief us on what you're thinking," he said. "We've had this problem before -- we weren't given advanced notice during the government shutdown, and now here it is again."

In other business, a council committee reported on improving employee performance management.

The work group consulted with chief human capital officers at several agencies this summer on how to improve employee performance. The panel's recommendations included creating a performance management integration board that would seek feedback from employees throughout the year and introduce leadership training programs.

Committee member Justin Johnson of OPM said the recommendations could be implemented with the council's endorsement, but noted they would be enhanced by regulatory and legislative actions. The group said it already has identified several agencies that are willing to test the program, including OPM.

"This feels spot on to me," Zients said in approval of the recommendations.

The labor-management council's next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19 to discuss the performance management recommendations in greater detail.

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