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Effort launched to give unions a say in workplace decisions

Jan. 16, 2013 - 04:19PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Obama administration is exploring how to give unions more input before agency workplace decisions are made.

Unions have been dissatisfied for years with their lack of “pre-decisional involvement” in management decisions. They say that, at many agencies, decisions are already made before management comes to labor to discuss them. Labor leaders such as Bill Dougan, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, have often said that sometimes, top agency leaders commit to pre-decisional involvement, but managers in front-line offices seem to ignore those orders.

“The most important topic for me is pre-decisional involvement,” Dougan said. “Where the work needs to be done, where the rubber meets the road is those labor-management forums down at those individual installations.”

A high-level council of Obama administration officials and union leaders — called the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations — is looking into the matter. The council on Wednesday voted to create a new panel to find ways to make labor-management partnerships more effective. The committee will focus on several issues, including how to extend to unions more pre-decisional involvement in agencies’ workplace decisions.

The committee also will help agencies set up labor-management partnerships and highlight best practices from other partnerships.

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said managers who drag their feet in reaching out to labor — possibly because they believed the partnership effort wouldn’t last — must get on board. Some labor leaders feared that if President Obama lost re-election, a Mitt Romney administration would have canceled the partnerships like President George W. Bush did in 2001.

“Their wake-up call is, this election is resolved, and this president will be sworn in on Monday, and this executive order will stand,” Berry said. “For anybody who’s been holding back … we will take this hill. I have a direct order from the president to do so. We are not going to allow people to stand in the way of that objective.”

Berry said the newly approved committee will help the council focus on the roughly 10 percent of offices that have not yet stood up labor-management forums and get them on board.

The national council also voted to meet every other month in 2013, instead of holding 10 meetings a year. This will give the council’s committees enough time to study matters and develop recommendations between full meetings.

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