Ten Labor and Employee Relations Predictions for 2010

What will happen in federal labor and employee relations in 2010? Here are a few predictions from an expert in the field.


I got a crystal ball for Christmas and after some heavy staring, and a little Holiday cheer, it produced the following prognostications. Now some may say that at least a few of these are so blatantly true that no crystal ball is needed. If so, go get your own column on FedSmith and risk the ridicule next December if the predictions prove bogus.
  1. About the Obama Executive Order:
    1. The deadline date to get plans in will not be met by a majority of Agencies or if it is, the plans will be rejected.
    2. The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations will not have all of its members named by the first deadline date for plan submission.
    3. Despite the wording of the Order, OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients won’t be reviewing any plans.
    4. Also Mr. Zients will start sending a sub after the first 2 or 3 meetings (if he waits that long).
    5. No Agency with a substantial bargaining expertise (or common sense) will sign up to do B(1) bargaining. Of course, OPM will do so.
    6. Agreement on success metrics will not be achieved by this time next year.
  2. About the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA):
    1. The "covered by" and "particularized need" concepts will become so watered down as to have no effect.
    2. No regulator or other Agency with expertise will be asked to provide an advisory opinion on a negotiability matter. (BTW, this is a slam dunk for me!)
    3. It will wimp out on the TSA recognition process and allow room for both AFGE and NTEU.
  3. About the FSIP:
    1. The new politicals at the Panel will make sure that any contract language gains from the Bush Panel will be properly neutralized if they get a chance when those contracts are renegotiated.
    2. After a little while, private interest arbitrators will have a resurgence of business.
  4. A new performance management system will surface:
    1. Roget’s will get heavy usage changing terminology.
    2. Creative writing will be a prerequisite for a job at OPM in developing the new policy.
    3. A massive effort to stomp out subjectivity will be a key component.
    4. The politicals will be dismayed that "critical element" must stay in when they discover the law must be revised if they do away with the term.
  5. OPM will announce a civil service reform initiative mostly addressing staffing. The keystone will be the redefining of "Merit" to give it a 21st century meaning. In other words, Vets preference will remain and so will special recruiting programs will abound to correct past inequities.
  6. The OPM – union honeymoon will end when John Berry insists on including a single classification system in the reform initiative.
  7. OPM will become less active in all the above if the current health care version passes the Congress and the Agency gets put in the very harsh spotlight of national media attention.
  8. The politicals in agencies will be all over Federal labor relations in 2010. Rumor has it that this is already happening at OPM where some key career LR types are being pushed aside in favor of some politically correct consultants.
  9. Agencies will publicize the success of their Labor Management Forums. It is reported that the press releases are already prepared.
  10. B (1) trial programs will demonstrate how easy it is to bargain in those areas and such will be reported to the National Forum. (A guarantee!!)
I know, I know, there are really 19 or 20 predictions depending on how you count. Somehow I wish the outcome of at least some of them was in doubt but it appears not. As always, the above reflects only my personal views or opinions and not those of others with whom or for whom I work or write.


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.