Privatization issues top AFGE’s legislative agenda

Contracting federal jobs to private industry tops this year’s checklist of legislative concerns for the American Federation of Government Employees, according to AFGE officials.

"Privatization is always at the top of our list and we will be working from a number of different angles on that issue," said Beth Moten, the organization’s legislative and political director. Moten and other AFGE officials spoke Feb. 21 about their 2007 legislative agenda at a news briefing during the run-up to the federation’s annual legislative and grass-roots mobilization conference, set to begin Feb. 25.

AFGE has often criticized the Bush administration’s competitive sourcing initiative, a major component of the President’s Management Agenda, as an effort to outsource federal jobs and give lucrative contracts to the private sector.

Citing what he termed the Office of Management and Budget’s "heavy-handed direction of the privatization process," AFGE Legislative Director John Threlkeld said more lawmakers want to give agencies autonomy in the sourcing arena.

"I think there is increasing interest on the part of Democratic and Republican lawmakers in letting administrators in agencies make up their own minds about how many employees to review for privatization, which employees, and when to do so," he said.

Overall, AFGE wants Congress to prevent the administration from "institutionalizing its version of the privatization process so it remains in place after, no matter who succeeds President Bush in the White House," Threlkeld said.

"We understand that this administration wants to go out with a bang, not a whimper, on competitive sourcing," he added.

As part of its legislative program, AFGE plans to encourage lawmakers to push for more in-house work, Threlkeld said.

"I think there’s a lot of interest on the part of agencies in bringing work that can be performed by reliable and experienced federal employees back in-house," he said.

AFGE officials also said they will press the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees to repeal provisions in new Defense Department and Homeland Security Department personnel systems that they see as damaging to federal employees. In particular, they will continue to express doubts to lawmakers about the administration’s effort to implement performance-based pay systems at DOD and DHS.

"We are very concerned that so-called pay for performance, which is on the administration’s agenda, is really designed to identify distinctions between employees, and I think that will only result in driving a wedge between employees instead of encouraging them to work together," Moten said.

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