DHS meets with unions about blocked HR system

Homeland Security Department officials and union leaders met today to discuss what will happen next to MaxHR, the proposed DHS personnel system that a federal judge has forbidden the department to implement.

Michael Jackson, DHS deputy secretary, Janet Hale, DHS undersecretary for management, and Ron James, DHS chief human capital officer, met with Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Mark Roth, the general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees and Terry Rosen, an AFGE labor relations specialist.

“I was pleased with the immediate response from DHS and welcomed the opportunity to sit down with Deputy Secretary Jackson,” Kelley said in a statement. The meeting lasted under an hour at DHS’ headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Kelley had requested the meeting with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff on Aug. 15, after Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided Aug. 12 to enjoin two major elements of MaxHR.

Collyer banned implementation of MaxHR because it would gut unions’ ability to collectively bargain with DHS. Collyer also forbade DHS from stripping Federal Labor Relations Authority’s ability to be an independent arbiter of DHS labor disputes.

“It was a good sign that DHS met with us this quickly,” Rosen said. Another good sign was that Jackson, the No. 2 man at the department, met with the union officials while Chertoff was away, she said.

The meeting was pleasant and was more about building relationships than reaching conclusions, Rosen said. No one discussed the lawsuit, she added.

DHS officials said they wanted to develop good long-term relations with the unions but “did indicate they really wanted to move ahead with implementing the program,” Rosen said.

Union officials said neither Jackson nor Chertoff were at DHS when MaxHR was developed and should not be automatically wedded to the program in its current form, Rosen said.

DHS officials have met repeatedly with union officials since starting to develop MaxHR, Larry Orluskie, DHS spokesman said. Jackson has met with many employees, union and non-union, to get a sense of conditions, he said.

Union officials suggested that Jackson invite Kelley and AFGE National President John Gage when meeting with DHS employees to improve employees’ confidence in telling the truth about low morale, Rosen said.

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