DHS changes personnel rules

Bush officials unveiled final regulations today to reshape the employee payment system at the Homeland Security Department, basing raises on performance and limiting collective bargaining. Union leaders said they would file a lawsuit to stop the plan.

"The men and women of DHS have developed new ways of working together to secure America," said DHS Secretary Tom Ridge. "In the same manner, a new human resource management system will allow us to develop significant new ways of supporting our valued men and women, providing the tools necessary to recognize their accomplishments, build on their successes and continue to build the nation's first line of defense."

Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James said the new plan will replace an "outmoded and unresponsive personnel system."

She said the new program marks the beginning of the process of implementing new policies and procedures for labor relations, adverse actions and appeals. It is expected to be launched in the fall of 2005 with pay and classification changes implemented the following year for some employee groups.

DHS will hold briefing sessions, satellite broadcasts and Web-training sessions to explain the new system to workers.

Among the changes:

A pay-for-performance program that will replace the General Schedule. Employees would get raises based on their performance, not on seniority.

Pay scales would reflect cost of living, making it more likely that someone in North Dakota would be paid less than a person in New York City for performing the same federal job.

Preserving collective bargaining but reducing the number of situations that require bargaining.

Streamlining adverse actions and appeals processes for DHS employees.

Establishing new occupational clusters and rules for assigning DHS employees to them.

On behalf of workers who could be affected by the new plans, union officials planned to file a lawsuit to stop the program.

Mark Roth, general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, said officials at four unions would be filing a lawsuit because administration officials are "setting up such a one-sided system" that will add limits to the scope of bargaining in the federal sector.

"It leaves us with nothing to bargain over and that violates the law," Roth said.

Employees' pay and benefits would not be reduced as a result of the new rules, and they retain their ability to organize and collectively bargain, DHS officials said.

Elements of the plan would not affect some DHS employees, including those working for the Transportation Security Administration, emergency preparedness and response employees and those who work for the DHS inspector general.

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