National Labor Council Meets and Defines Metrics

By on November 18, 2010 in Current Events with 0 Comments

Below are the notes from an anonymous Agency attendee to the November 3 meeting of the National Council on Federal Labor Management Relations. Thank you for providing this service to folks who otherwise would not get this information.

Notes

National Labor Relations Council 

November 3, 2010

Eighth Meeting 

To the best of my note taking ability and short term memory, the following is a recap of the discussion held at the November 3, 2010 National Labor-Management Council meeting. Individual speakers are typically identified by the organization they represent.

Agenda

The meeting’s agenda is attached. (SEE BELOW – Bob G) OPM noted that its building was being renovated and the next few meetings would have to be held at another location still to be determined.

Minutes

The minutes of last month’s meeting were adopted.

Implementation Plan

The last unapproved labor-management council implementation plan (Social Security) was approved.

Council Letter on Establishing Forums and Pre-Decisional Involvement

OPM noted that it was working on a letter to agencies on establishing forums and pre-decisional involvement. The letter would be staffed with the Council prior to it being finalized.

Metrics Guidance

Draft metrics guidance was distributed (attached). The primary focus of the metrics will be on outcomes. The guidance’s aim was to be simple, useful, and practicable. The guidance can be adjusted where usage indicates it is necessary. The guidance was adopted by the Council.

Of particular note, the guidance provides that all forums will have identified issues, goals and metrics internally for reporting on a baseline by December 31, 2010. I expect additional guidance as to any reporting requirement will be forthcoming.

Telework

As you might remember from last month’s Council meeting, a working group had been formed to address telework. The group provided an interim report (attached).

Of note, the working group members had a difference of opinion as to whether its charter had them addressing mobile work days (emergency-type teleworking, e.g., snowstorm, other natural or man-made disaster) or a government-wide telework policy.

As to the briefing, the group identified that they had discussed what a mobile work day would look like, barriers to implementing a mobile work day and the mission/objectives of the working group. They also identified certain potential barriers to implementing a mobile work day policy, such as lack of sufficient infrastructure and funding, security concerns, perceived fairness with those employees who cannot telework and management resistance.

In discussing whether the charter provided for the group to look at mobile work days or a general telework policy, some said that resolving the mobile work day could have implications for the overall government telework policy. Also, any arrangement may not be a 100% fix, but it could increase the number of employees working during an emergency.

NFFE noted that it wanted to look at the broad program, identifying agency-by-agency, if it had to, what the program would look like and addressing any impediments. Looking at the larger telework program would help avoid a narrow review of potential problems and possibilities.

AFGE stated it was not interested in looking at the mobile work days issue. It felt that this would just lead to charging people leave in an emergency. If you can work at home on a snow day, you can work at home anytime, so we should look at the overall telework program.

NTEU further explained that if you can’t work at home during the rest of the year, employees wouldn’t be prepared to work at home in an emergency, e.g., they wouldn’t have a computer, they wouldn’t have work available. NTEU felt the working group had to address the larger telework issue to resolve the above problems. It also noted that unless we expand the employees eligible for telework, this issue can never be fixed.

OMB noted that the President is engaged in discussions on telework and that it may be frustrating for the Council to address these issues now if the President is going to issue something on this matter.

Treasury stated that mobile work day may not apply to everyone, but it may be worth studying the technology even if just for a distinct group like the national capital area.

OPM noted that its agency is looking at telework in terms of budget/replacement cycle. They are moving to docking stations allowing greater flexibility and secure portable computers. This is not being done all at once, but within budget/replacement cycles. They still have to work on getting managers to be comfortable allowing employees to work at different locations. OPM hoped the working group would address how we can move in the right direction of finding more flexible, resilient workforce. (That is, a workforce that can continue working in the event of an emergency.)

AFGE said just looking at the mobile work day would be starting at ground zero when we already have 20 years of experience. There are contracts that address every single concern management has with telework. To say we start with telework for a snow day is an insult. The working group should look at existing contracts that address telework. GSA has addressed the myth of computer security. Look at contracts and GSA and we would have our policy. If we look at just snow days, we’re ducking the issue. AFGE noted that the White House developing a telework policy should work with the Council.

OPM said there has been progress in telework; but the result is 20-30% of the workforce is eligible to telework. So, something is restraining the adoption of telework and the working group should try to identify that constraint.

IFPTE noted that it was not a big fan of telework since it could be argued that if an employee can do that work from home, then anyone can do it. Telework is an issue that should be handled at the bargaining table. Instead of the broad policy, the working group should focus on telework in an emergency situation. This is not only good for the operation of the government, but would have the support of the public.

NTEU suggested looking at COOP plans to see what groups the agencies see as being eligible for telework. It would be good to at least move from 20-30% to 40-50%.

NEA suggested looking at collective bargaining agreements and then come up with recommendations.

OPM concurred and said it would be good to gather info on where we are now. Look at contracts, develop a baseline, identify constraints and a way forward – provide guidance on dealing with emergency days and that will help inform us on the way ahead for the broader telework policy.

AFGE disagreed saying that looking just at the mobile/emergency telework was a path to failure. We need to look at the broad telework program. We need to push agencies to try telework and then measure their productivity. Every place we tried it, productivity went up. Looking at mobile work day is half-stepping it. While mobile work day is certainly part of the overall telework policy, we won’t learn anything from just looking at emergency days. The union was very disappointed the group would even consider looking at only the mobile work days.

OPM noted that the discussion went as far as it could go and that it will work with the group to help define the focus.

There was then some discussion on the working group gathering contracts and developing best practices and sharing that with the Administration. OPM said it could get the group data it has collected on the number of eligible employees for telework.

(b)(1) Permissive Rights Pilots

A list of the various (b)(1) pilots were distributed (attached). It listed 12,000+ employees in the pilots.

AFGE said the list was weak. That the small number wouldn’t tell us anything about (b)(1) bargaining. Also, it objected to FEMA as a pilot since the (b)(1) bargaining was already in their contract prior to the Executive Order. As such, it was not a true pilot. AFGE said it should be taken off the list. It noted that the (b)(1) portion of the contract hasn’t been used and won’t be used. Homeland Security should go back to the drawing board and develop a pilot. Homeland Security said that keeping it on the list gives it visibility and that this would be advantageous. OPM said it would follow-up with the parties to address the issue.

NEA said that in the absence of (b)(1) bargaining, engaging in pre-decisional involvement is strongly recommended. He noted success in doing so with DoD.

Future Meetings

OPM asked if the current schedule of monthly meetings was appropriate or whether there should be more time in-between meetings. SEA suggested scheduling them monthly, but cancelling those where there are insufficient topics for discussion. OPM will develop and circulate a draft schedule. It asked members if they had any recommendations for locations of future meetings while OPM was being renovated.

Training and Council Members

At a joint FLRA/FMCS labor-management training location, a union member of the Council was told he could not attend the training because then every national union official for a union in the class would have to attend. The Council agreed that this was inappropriate and that Council members could attend any training. The FLRA noted the need for greater visibility of the Council’s members and their efforts beyond the national capital region. As to training, it said it continues to offer FLRA/FMCS joint E.O. training, (b)(1) training, a host of other classes, and it is developing training available through electronic means.

IFPTE suggested that the Council develop a two- or three-minute video explaining what the Council is and what it is achieving and that the video be placed on YouTube and other electronic mediums so it can be viewed by all employees.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Council is Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1000.

Comments

Regarding handouts, you can find them by following these links from the Council website:
Agenda 
 (16 KB)
Table of 7106(b)(1) Pilot Projects (44 KB)
Guidance for
Labor-Management 7106(b)(1) Pilot Metrics
 
 (207 KB)
Guidance for
Labor-Management Forum Metrics
 
 (258 KB)
Mobile Workforce Work Group
Presentation
 
 (34 KB)
SSA Agency Plan 
 (46 KB)

Take a careful look at both papers on metrics. The goals seem to me to be extremely vague. Similarly, the projects listed in the table appear to mostly be softball efforts. I’d appreciate serious comments on both the papers and projects so I can write an article or two based on your take. As always, I won’t publish name, Agency or identifiers. The ranters will rant as usual so shouldn’t expect a quote.

Social Security Question

Social Security appears to finally have an approved plan. I’m troubled by a condition listed in the plan as follows: 

“AFGE will be entitled to representation by ten (10) persons it designates who shall receive travel allowance and per diem and shall be deemed to be on agency duty time, not Official Union time.” (My Emphasis, their capitalization.)

While the FLRA has found that official time may be negotiated for such matters as EEO and MSPB hearings, I can’t find a word in the statute that allows duty time for a labor relations purpose as opposed to negotiated official time.

Perhaps the HHS IG should be looking at whether this deal is playing fast and loose with rules governing the payment of Federal employees and statutory obligations. One substantial problem with such an arrangement is the difficulty it creates in tracking the time union representatives use. Were I on an appropriations committee on the Hill, I might ask how one tracks accountability for such matters.

It certainly muddies the water and has the appearance of a political payoff to the unions to allow them to use time that perhaps the contract might otherwise limit. But then, the President’s Executive Order encourages an unanticipated expansion in the governing statute as a political payoff for Federal union support and money, why not expand the funding rules as well while you’re at it? You decide.

If you see an opinion above, it is mine and not the responsibility of anyone else.

© 2016 Bob Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Bob Gilson.

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About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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