Union opposes draft civil service changes

NTEU says governmentwide civil service changes are premature and misguided.

The National Treasury Employees Union on Thursday said it would fight any effort by the Bush administration to extend pending personnel changes at the Defense and Homeland Security departments to the entire civilian workforce.

The Bush administration has drafted a civil service reform bill that proposes governmentwide system based on reforms that are being rolled out at the Defense and Homeland Security departments. The proposal would scrap the General Schedule pay system by 2010 and replace it with a pay-for-performance system. The new proposal was expected, although many lawmakers and observers believed the administration would wait until the Defense and Homeland Security systems were in place before expanding the effort across the civil service.

"All along NTEU has said that it will steadfastly oppose any effort by the Bush administration to extend throughout the federal government personnel changes similar to those under way at Homeland Security and Defense," said NTEU President Colleen Kelley. "It is NTEU's strong belief that the DoD and DHS systems will fail because those systems are not fair and transparent, and neither managers nor front-line employees understand or support the regulations."

The legislation and its supporting documents have not yet been sent to Congress and officials at the Office of Personnel Management declined to comment.

In a draft letter addressed to House and Senate leaders, but not yet sent, OPM acting Director Dan G. Blair called the General Schedule system a "failure" and said the proposed overhaul is needed to provide essential personnel flexibility and competitive pay rates.

In terms of labor relations, the draft legislation requires bargaining only when "proposed management action had a significant, substantial and continuing adverse impact on employees," according to OPM documents.

Agencies also will be able to "prepare for or prevent any emergency, or prevent any fiscal or budgetary exigency without bargaining with unions first," the draft documents stated.

"There is nothing in the draft governmentwide legislation currently circulating that has diminished our strong opposition to extending these personnel changes," Kelley said. "It is foolhardy to rush further changes into law without first gaining experience and understanding the lessons to be learned from the changes at DoD and DHS."