Feds are organizing labor-management forums

Thursday - 5/6/2010, 6:43am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

Click below to hear the report

Download mp3

By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Last December, President Obama signed an executive order, setting up the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. The purpose of the council: to re-establish federal agency labor-management forums, where managers and rank and file feds can sit down and discuss common problems within their organization.

Yesterday, the Council held its third meeting ever, and so far, the primary work of the council deals mainly with organizing itself and the agency-level forums.

The Council is led by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Jeff Zeints, the White House Chief Performance Officer. Members include the heads of the top federal worker unions, federal manager groups, and management representatives from key federal agencies.

Agenda items for Wednesday's meeting included a working group report on how to create labor-management forums in agencies where unions don't represent all workers in an agency, and accepting implementation plans for these labor-management groups.

Berry, along with co-chairman Zients, recommended the council miss a May 8 deadline and delay reporting to the president by 30 days in order to form a working group to develop guidance on creating pilot programs.

It's all very much a work in progress right now. And, as Berry told Federal News Radio afterward, that's fine by him.

We resolved what could have been some sticky issues, and, in fact, the working groups have brought from both management and employees a spirit of cooperation. So, today, we made significant progress on two key issues from the last meeting. I think I'm in a very comfortable place, its very solid progress, I think the President will be very pleased, and I think the American public will be pleased that we're getting this airborne, with the ultimate goal of improving service to the public.

Darryl Perkinson is the immediate past president of the Federal Managers Association, one of several groups representing mid-to-upper level supervisors and managers on the council. He says he's heartened by the progress the council has made in ironing out its organizational challenges, and points to the fact that after only three meetings, virtually all federal agencies, except for three, have set up their labor-management forums.

"Getting the government to go ahead with the agencies we have approved is encouraging. We have only three agencies that are still sitting out there trying to get started with the forum process. I'm very impressed that we're coming together in an orderly fashion, and having open discussions on many issues."

Colleen Kelley is president of the National Treasury Employees Union. She remembers the old labor-management councils from the days of the Clinton Administration, and says she understands that today's group will need a little bit of time and work to get its feet on the ground.

It's been nine years since agencies and labor have been engaged in this kind of a relationship with the support of the White House, so we have to begin again with the whole process. Many agencies are looking for guidance from this council, so its important that we make the time to address the issues.

The next meeting of the national labor-management council will be held on Monday, June 7th.

------

(Copyright 2010 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)