DHS abandons efforts to implement new labor relations rules

The Homeland Security Department has indicated in a court filing that it will abandon efforts to install new labor relations regulations as part of a larger overhaul of its personnel system.

In a defendant’s status report filed Feb. 15 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, DHS said it would not “revise the permanently enjoined” labor-relations regulations before the expiration of its authority to implement a new personnel system. That authority, granted under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, expires Jan. 23, 2009.

In effect, the filing makes available full collective-bargaining rights for DHS
employees covered by the system. In response to the action, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the lead plaintiff in the case, declared victory.


“It puts to rest DHS efforts to gut employees’ collective-bargaining rights and give management unfettered discretion to alter fundamental conditions of employment without giving employees any say,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

In its filing, DHS asked the court to dismiss the case "as there is no case or controversy remaining.” In a previous status report submitted Jan. 16, DHS noted that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, which funds the department, bars it from using any appropriated funds for the system, called the Human Capital Operations Plan, until any pending litigation is resolved.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of labor unions that represent DHS employees in 2005, when the department published final regulations to deploy new labor-relations rules as part of an effort to revamp its personnel system.


Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a decision by a lower court that the system, then known as Max-HR, would illegally curtail collective-bargaining rights for employees. The lower court retained jurisdiction in the case to consider any new labor relations regulations  the department might devise.

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