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Congress Begins DoD Civil Service Overhaul Debate

Pay Raises and Rights of All Federal Employees At Risk As Congress Begins Debate on DoD Civil Service Overhaul

April 24, 2003

DoD Secretary Rumsfeld is pressuring Congress to quickly implement the Pentagon's 205 page legislation that would place DoD civilian employees under a completely new personnel system. The sweeping personnel changes in the bill would eliminate annual pay raises, step increases, appeal rights, bargaining rights and reduction in force protections for all DoD employees. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The impact of the personnel changes proposed by DoD are huge and are likely to affect all AFGE members. As former Merit Systems Protection Board official John Palguta put it in yesterday's Washington Post, "This one is huge. I think where (the Pentagon) goes on this will have a major impact on what might happen for other agencies."

The DoD bill is on a fast track for passage. The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday, April 29, at 10:00 in Room 2203 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The full House Government Reform Committee will consider, mark-up, a final version of the bill on Wednesday, April 30.

What Can AFGE Grassroots Activists Do?

The focus of attention right now must be the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. All AFGE Locals and activists should begin sending hundreds of Action Faxes in to the offices of Representative and Senator(s) who are on either of these committees.

Link To Direct Action Resources:

For your future and your family's, please put your action plan into action today! DoD wants to shove this bill down the throats of federal employees as quickly as possible. It will be a very bitter pill to swallow if we don't mobilize now!


Attention DoD Civilian Personnel:

The new DoD civilian personnel system proposal will change your job.
Unless you stop Congress from agreeing to the Rumsfeld Plan.


Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has sent to Capitol Hill legislation which would place civilian DoD employees under a completely new personnel system. And DoD has asked for Congress to include these changes in the FY 2004 Defense Authorization bill, which will be considered by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees starting at the end of April.

The Rumsfeld proposal would allow DoD to waive approximately 12 major chapters of Title 5, United States Code (Title 5 is the section of the law which covers government organization and federal employment), and create a new personnel system in place of those chapters.

The major areas which could be waived by DoD under this proposal are:

pay and position classification systems (chapters 53 and 51):

- Waiving chapter 53 means that both the General Schedule (GS) and Federal Wage System (FWS) or Wage Grade (WG) systems can be eliminated and replaced with a system that does not provide for the annual raises employees receive now. In addition, the new system would eliminate the within-grade step increases currently provided to employees who are eligible for them and who have performed at an acceptable level. Instead, they intend to put employees into a pay-banding system which allows supervisors to decide whether and by how much individual employees' pay will be adjusted. In other words, goodbye to annual pay raises and step increases (within-grade increases or WIGIs). Your supervisor - not Congress - will decide whether you get a raise - and how much - or not. And if you don't, you'll be unlikely to have a chance to appeal your supervisor's decision.

- Chapter 51 covers the current classification system and requires that different pay levels for different jobs be based on the concept of "equal pay for substantially equal work". A new system would not necessarily have to adhere to that standard. So jobs which are graded similarly now might be treated completely differently after the new system is in place.

performance appraisal system (chapter 43):

- Chapter 43 allows management to take action against poor performers. In order to ensure that workers are given a fair shake, the law provides employees with an opportunity to undergo a performance improvement period (p-i-p) before they are disciplined for poor performance. In a new system created by DoD, the p-i-p could be eliminated and/or the ability of the employee to appeal disciplinary action could be eliminated.

due process and appeal rights for disciplinary actions (ch. 75 & 77):

- Chapter 75 sets up a system for management to suspend, demote, or dismiss an employee. It also provides an employee with due process rights and the ability to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Under this chapter, an employee against whom a disciplinary action is proposed is entitled to: (1) advance written notice of the disciplinary action, (2) a reasonable time to respond, (3) be represented by an attorney, (4) a written decision by the agency listing the specific reasons for the disciplinary action.

- Chapter 77 establishes the procedures for appealing to the MSPB, establishes the procedures for appealing discrimination decisions either to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the MSPB, and establishes judicial review of MSPB decisions.

- Waiving chapters 75 and 77 allows DoD management to set up a personnel system whereby employees have little or no right to information about why they are being disciplined, and little or no right to appeal decisions against them. This "managerial flexibility" raises profound constitutional questions.

collective bargaining rights (chapter 71):

- Chapter 71 allows federal employees to organize into unions and bargain collectively with management over some employment conditions. Waiving chapter 71 allows DoD management to create a new labor-management system tilted even more in favor of management.

- In addition, language in the Rumsfeld proposal allows DoD to bypass local unions' bargaining rights, and eliminates the process by which disputes between employee representatives and management are resolved. Currently, impasses are sent to the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP), a seven member board selected entirely by President Bush, which acts as a binding arbitrator on all disputes. The Rumsfeld Plan would prohibit any bargaining impasses, no matter how routine or unrelated to national security, from going to the FSIP. Instead, the bill would prevent any third-party dispute resolution outside DoD. This is totally unprecedented and ultimately makes the whole process a sham.

hiring and examination (chapters 31, 33):

- The Rumsfeld proposal would allow DoD to waive requirements against hiring relatives, as well as eliminate requirements for merit-based testing for positions in the competitive service. Supervisors would be able to hire and promote their cronies, relatives, and political favorites if these sections of the law are eliminated.

reduction-in-force rules (chapter 35):

- The Rumsfeld plan would eliminate the requirement that reductions-in-force be conducted on the basis of tenure of employment, length of service, and efficiency or performance ratings. In other words, supervisors could pick and choose -- based on favoritism rather than performance, merit, and seniority -- which employees get the pink slip and which don't. This "flexibility" is being sought by the Department even after it successfully downsized several hundred thousand civilians after the Cold War without loss of mission-essential efficiencies and capabilities.

pay administration (chapter 55):

- Chapter 55 is the section of the statute which addresses numerous issues ranging from overtime and compensatory time calculations, firefighter pay, Sunday and holiday pay, dual status pay for National Guard and Reserve technicians, jury duty pay, severance pay, and back pay due to unjustified personnel actions. By waiving this chapter, DoD could reverse dozens of years of progressive legislating on matters which are crucial to the economic security of federal employees.

allowances (chapter 59):

- Chapter 59 addresses everything from uniform allowances to danger pay to duty at remote worksites. Again, many of these issues were legislated to address economic needs of employees. If Congress permits DoD to waive this chapter, the people's representatives will have no voice in what, if anything, is established in its place.

training (chapter 41):

- It is not clear at this time what flexibilities on training DoD is planning to implement.

AFGE Position

AFGE strongly opposes the Rumsfeld Plan to change the personnel system for DoD civilians.


© Scoop Media

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