Union balks at DOD HR changes

The American Federation of Government Employees will file a lawsuit to fight new personnel regulations that seek to tie pay to performance.

The Defense Department issued a final published version of the controversial regulations Oct. 27.

"I can't really comment on the timing," said Mark Gibson, a labor relations specialist at AFGE, which represents 260,000 civilian employees at DOD. "It could be any day. It may not be for a week or two. The lawsuit will not be filed until it is ready to be filed."

Gibson said the federal civil service is at a critical point with the release of the new regulations, known as the National Security Personnel System (NSPS). "This has the potential to take us back in public service 150 years," he said.

The final rules for a new labor- management and pay system will affect about 700,000 civilian DOD employees, according to DOD and the Office of Personnel Management. Lawmakers have 30 days to review the 437 pages of regulations before they go into effect, barring any litigation, DOD officials said.

Congress authorized DOD to create new pay and labor regulations after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and the name -- National Security Personnel System --reflects that, Gibson said.

"They had to have some way to sell it and some way to coerce members of Congress into voting for it," Gibson said.

At a news briefing on the new system, Navy Secretary Gordon England, senior executive of NSPS, sought to allay the fears that the new system has evoked among many of DOD's unionized workers and their leaders.

"We believe the regulations strike a balance between employee interests and DOD's need to accomplish its mission effectively and to respond swiftly to ever-changing national security interests," England said.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) released a statement expressing concern that the new regulations will end the General Schedule, under which DOD civilians are now paid, "and replace it with a new and untested system that has the potential to be used in an arbitrary and unfair manner."

England said DOD has spent the past 18 months consulting with all parties involved to develop and revise the regulations. DOD has started training supervisors to implement them, he said. But if the department encounters problems in switching to the new rules, he added, "we will slow down the program."

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