NOAA workers join Commerce pay-for-performance project

Notice of Expansion of the Department of Commerce Personnel Management Demonstration Project

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Several thousand employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have joined the Commerce Department’s pay-for-performance demonstration project.

According to a notice published in the Federal Register Aug. 28, 3,500 NOAA employees will join 5,000 Commerce workers who are already participating in the agency’s Personnel Management Demonstration Project.

The notice states that the project is “designed to provide managers at the lowest organizational level [the] control and flexibility needed to recruit, retain, develop, recognize and motivate its workforce while ensuring adequate accountability and oversight.”

The project was expanded under the Commerce appropriations act, which was signed in November 2005. The legislation also boosted the total number of NOAA employees to 6,925.

The pay-for-performance project has many features from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s 1988 Demonstration Project.

Among the employees shifting out of the General Schedule pay system are local members of several federal workers’ unions, including longtime pay-for-performance opponents the American Federation of Government Employees. The local AFGE unions in Miami and Boulder, Colo., voted for pay for performance.

AFGE has engaged in long-standing legal battles with the military's pay-for-performance initiative, the National Security Personnel System.

“There are always a few employees who stand to gain from this,” said Jacqueline Simon, AFGE’s public policy director. “A few people joined the union solely to be able to vote, and [this new group] voted it in.”

The national AFGE office doesn’t dictate how local union groups vote, Simon said. Although she knew little about the demonstration program, she said she would have voted against it.

Employees from NOAA who will be subject to pay-for-performance include those in the National Ocean Service, Office of the Undersecretary, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, and the Office of Sustainable Development and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The program will also cover bargaining-unit employees in the Office of Human Resources Management, the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer; all locations in the Southeast and Northwest; the Alaska Fisheries Science Center; the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations; and some offices in the National Marine Fisheries Service.


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