GAO employees to vote on union
Agency analysts say they want a voice in personnel issues that affect their pay
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An employees union could be in the Government Accountability Office’s future if GAO analysts formally decide later this year to unionize.
Officials from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and GAO have begun a series of meetings to work out details for what will be the first union representation election in the agency’s 86-year history. The election is likely to take place in late spring or early summer, union officials said.
The federation filed a petition May 9 to form a union after a majority of about 1,500 GAO analysts voted to unionize. Jamie Horwitz, a federation spokesman, declined to specify the number of analysts who signed cards requesting a vote for unionization.
“We received cards from a majority of analysts in Washington and in field offices around the country,” Horwitz said. “We still have cards coming in because people want to show their commitment.”
Steve Berke, a GAO senior analyst who supports unionization, said more than half of the agency’s analysts signed cards. which “indicates how an election might go.”
In voting to support a representation election, GAO analysts expressed concern about a range of employee issues, especially those related to the agency’s pay-for-performance system, implemented in 2004. Employees say they had little input into the system’s structure and management.
“The result is that it has hurt teamwork and morale,” Horwitz said.
In a statement, Comptroller General David Walker said the agency’s management has complied with all applicable labor laws and GAO employee orders. He said GAO is “prepared to support a timely election process if the union meets related requirements for a vote.”
Walker has been a vocal advocate for establishing a culture of performance in government and particularly for pay-for-
performance systems. GAO has often been cited as a model agency for merit-based pay systems in government.
Nonetheless, there has been an undercurrent of unhappiness at GAO about the pay-for-performance system, one analyst said. GAO’s employees say unionizing will help engender a more collaborative environment.
“I believe GAO’s pay-and-performance system could benefit from the input of its employees,” said another analyst, Gay Hee Lee, who has worked at GAO for five years.
“It would make the system more transparent and objective and would make us as employees more accountable because we would have an active part in its implementation,” Lee said.
A joint congressional hearing is scheduled for May 22 to examine GAO’s employee reforms.