Managers’ groups unite in effort to influence personnel debate

New coalition will seek to add managers' and executives' voices to discussion dominated by labor unions and Bush administration.

Personnel changes under way within the federal government prompted five federal management groups last week to form a coalition to strengthen their voice on the issues.

The Government Managers Coalition -- made up of the Senior Executives Association, Federal Managers Association, Professional Managers Association, Federal Aviation Administration Managers Association and National Council of Social Security Management Associations -- represents about 200,000 federal managers across government.

As the Defense and Homeland Security departments undertake vast personnel reforms, shedding the General Schedule in favor of performance- and market-based pay schemes, managers need a say, according to coalition members. The Bush administration also is floating draft legislation to extend the changes to the remaining federal agencies.

"It is quite apparent that the administration and the Congress are not satisfied with the current General Schedule and Wage Grade system," said Darryl Perkinson, FMA's president. "The managers are going to be the folks in the end, when you talk about pay-for-performance, making a key transitional change in how we have done business in the past. We are going to have to sit down with our employees and develop personal development plans."

Organizations representing rank-and-file employees have been vocal on the issue of personnel reforms; a coalition of unions filed lawsuits against DHS and the Pentagon over labor relations aspects of the reforms and said they will likely sue over pay-related provisions once they are implemented. But management groups do not engage in collective bargaining on behalf of their employees and have not participated in any lawsuits.

"The manager seems to get pushed aside," said William Bransford, SEA's general counsel. "You listen to the unions; you listen to the political leadership because it has power. [Managers] are just supposed to go out there and do their job and approve sick leave requests and do performance appraisals, and they are sort of expected to just kind of go out there and keep their mouth shut."

But while the personnel overhaul served as an impetus for the five groups to begin discussions last spring, it is not included among the four specific issues the coalition chose to address in its first joint lobbying effort.

"That's not one of the issues that we've identified at this point because we don't see it as immediate," said Rick Warsinskey, president of the Social Security group. Some of the groups in the coalition do not represent any managers in DHS or Defense. But, Warsinskey said, the coalition will monitor the draft legislation to extend the reforms, and may weigh in later.

The four topics that the coalition will start with are: sick leave compensation for employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System, mandatory supervisor training, the status and treatment of managers whose employees file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and extension of probationary periods for new employees.

"By coming together as a group, hopefully [we will have] some additional clout on the Hill," Bransford said. "It's the collective wisdom of five different management organizations."

Coalition members will meet monthly via teleconferences and also host occasional in-person meetings. For the coalition to take an official stance on an issue, each member group must approve the position with its membership.