Obama extends labor-management council to 2013

Wednesday - 11/30/2011, 4:30pm EST

The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations will meet through September 2013 under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama.

Without the order, the committee of federal unions, management associations and agencies would have disbanded next month.

Advisory committees are routinely established for two-year periods. The reauthorization past Obama's first term is just a formality, said Tim Curry, the deputy associate director of partnership and labor relations at OPM.

"While we've made some progress and have some early success stories, we still have a lot of work ahead of us," he said.

A few weeks ago, the council recommended a framework for improving agencies' employee evaluation systems. But it is still working on other objectives, including evaluating the value of union participation in nonbargaining decisions that may impact employees, such as how many workers to assign to a project or which telephone system to install in the building.

"It's not surprising that the Council was extended in that its work is ongoing and, in that regard, there is no expiration with regard to the substantive aspects of the Executive Order," said Carol Bonosaro, who sits on the council as president of the Senior Executives Association.

Supporters of federal labor-management forums say they are building trust between employee unions and agency executives. In turn, that can facilitate smart decisions that impact worker satisfaction.

"Employees have a lot of good ideas on how to improve efficiency and service, cut waste and eliminate unnecessary processes. We have a major opportunity through the forum process to harness those ideas," said National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley in a written statement. She also sits on the council.

"The structure is in place," she said. "We need to get to the substance."

Others question the value of labor-management councils.

"Unions are a special interest," former George W. Bush appointee George Nesterczuk testified at a recent Senate hearing on labor-management councils. "Federal unions were not created for the purpose of maximizing the efficiency of governance. To place them in a position where they can influence public policy for their own benefit is a clear conflict of interest and should not be tolerated."

Bush discontinued a similar initiative begun under President Bill Clinton. A new president could rescind the executive order when they take office.

The executive order extends eight other federal advisory committees. They include the President's Management Advisory Board, which is tasked with recommending ways that agencies can improve executive productivity, customer service and technology.

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