AFGE pulls out of NSPS talks

Wednesday - 3/16/2011, 7:40am EDT

By Jared Serbu
DoD Reporter
Federal News Radio

A large government employee union said Tuesday that it will no longer participate in negotiations over Defense department civilian employees' transition from the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) into the General Schedule system.

The American Federation of Government Employees notified John James, director of the NSPS transition office in a letter that it would withdraw from a design team that had been established to negotiate rules for employees transitioning out of NSPS, the union said in a statement.

AFGE president John Gage said his union's decision to pull out of the talks was precipitated by "union busting" activities against a civilian Air Force nurse who had been working to organize fellow employees at a military hospital in Nebraska.

The union claimed that the Air Force had retaliated against the employee, Julie Shaheen, after AFGE named her as a participant to the design team. AFGE claimed she was placed on a performance improvement plan and was denied leave to attend future out of town negotiating sessions after attending one of the team's meeting in San Diego last month.

"We are a union and we are going to stand by each and every one of our union members. We are pulling out of the design team, and the Air Force Command and DoD's senior leaders can explain it to Congress," Gage said in a statement.

DoD officials said they were committed to "broad based participation" as it crafted the new authorities for workers transitioning out of NSPS, and that while they respected unions' right to assign representatives of their own choosing to the design team, the employee in question had duties that prevented her command from granting the leave she would need to participate in the team.

"Unfortunately, a significant workload requirement precluded management from releasing one of the selected individuals," DoD said in a statement provided by a Pentagon spokeswoman to Federal News Radio. "We have provided the union leadership the opportunity to select an alternate for this very important initiative. This option is strongly encouraged in view of the workload considerations of the previously selected individual."

Congress established NSPS in the 2004 Defense authorization bill as a way to grant DoD additional flexibility to hire, pay, promote and discipline civilian employees. In 2009, following years of complaints and legal fights between the government and labor unions, lawmakers abolished the pay-for-performance system, which then housed 220,000 employees.

As of February, approximately 180,000 of NSPS's employees had been transitioned into the General Schedule, according to the NSPS transition website.

(Copyright 2011 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)