Union won’t file HSPD-12 complaint against GSA -- yet
The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) said it will hold off on filing a formal unfair labor complaint until after it meets with the General Services Administration about the agency’s implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. The union, which represents about half of GSA’s employees, hopes to meet with the agency as early as next week.
The union said last week that it planned to file an unfair labor practice charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, alleging that GSA had failed to meet labor obligations by not bargaining with the union about how it would implement HSPD-12’s interoperable smart-card program. The union has raised privacy concerns about the background checks the directive mandates.
GSA is working to implement HSPD-12, the governmentwide smart-card program, by October 2008, and an agency spokeswoman said it has no choice but to conduct the background investigations. The program requires that all employees and long-term contractors undergo at least a National Agency Check and Inquiry and an FBI fingerprint check for criminal history.
The agency has briefed NFFE and the American Federation of Government Employees on the directive and said it is willing to meet again, although it added that it has already met all bargaining requirements.
The union objects to reinvestigating employees, who may not have received thorough background investigations when they were hired, and is concerned that long-time employees could be targeted under the program. The Office of Personnel Management, which is overseeing the investigations, said the checks do not focus on ideology or politics and that they are no different from the background checks federal employees already undergo.
The union said GSA has not met its negotiating requirements because it did not disclose to the union the specifics of the investigation process beyond general HSPD-12 information and the list of agency employees who will be investigated.
“I wish I knew what they were doing,” said Charles Paidock, NFFE’s Region 5 vice president. “It’s anybody’s guess.”
Paidock said NFFE has sent 10 pages of proposals to GSA on the issue, and he hopes the upcoming meeting will yield positive results. But he also warned that if the two sides do not meet or if the meeting does not accomplish the desired results, NFFE will proceed with the unfair labor practice charge.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.