The House and Senate Conference Committee working on the DoD Authorization Bill (NDAA) has voted to repeal NSPS. We remain hopeful that the language will be signed by the President as part of the NDAA. Getting to this point has been a 6 year battle. As you may recall, I sat through 30 days of meet and confer with DoD on their NSPS proposals. During that 30 day process DoD alluded to the fact that DoD employees represented by unions were a threat to national security. Their position was insane and disrespectful to all DoD employees. During the first week of meetings IAFF, NFFE and the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Council quickly decided we needed to battle NSPS to the end. The United Defense Workers Coalition was created in a hallway in Rosslyn Virginia when me, Rick Brown (NFFE) and Ron Ault (metal trades) and a few others decided we had to unite and fight NSPS or it would be the end of employee rights and representation in DoD. A week later we organized a press conference in the lobby of the IAFF HQ building and announced the formation of the UDWC and our plans to battle NSPS to the end. The UDWC eventually grew to an organization with 36 labor unions that represent employees working for the DoD. I still believe that DoD thought the UDWC would fall apart. But the Executive Council of the UDWC of which I am a member fought to keep the group together for the great cause of defeating attacks on employee rights in the federal sector. The original NSPS proposals were fought in Court and politically by the group and we successfully retained our 5 USC Chapter 71 bargaining rights, and ensured that bargaining unit employees were not placed under any form of NSPS.
That said, NSPS is still out there and over 200,000 employees are in the NSPS pay for performance system. Knowing that the presence of NSPS is still a threat even if our unit members are not in NSPS- we have continued to battle the issue on the political front. This has involved many meetings and a lot of time over the years. At times it seemed NSPS was here to stay and that at some point DoD would place all the employees into the system. But we kept fighting and working all the angles available to us politically to kill NSPS.
Now we are on the threshold of having NSPS repealed and DoD being ordered to place all the employees back into the general schedule system by January 2012.
There are also other issues in the NDAA report that I have been actively working on that are beneficial to our members. Changes approved by the conference committee will allow Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees to receive credit for unused sick leave toward their retirement annuity, and will ensure retirement equity by providing locality pay for federal workers in Hawaii (F263), Alaska, and the U.S. Territories (Guam F150).
The committee also removed dangerous language from the Bill that would have increased the maximum entry age for fire fighters from 37 to 47. Our main concern with raising the maximum entry age was that soon after the maximum retirement age would also be raised to 67 and I lobbied heavily to get the language removed from the Bill.
In other news you will be pleased to hear that the FLRA is once again open for business. The new FLRA Board appointees are in place as is the General Council. The new General Council for the FLRA, Julia Clark, comes to the FLRA from IFPTE (AFL-CIO). A reception for the new members was held this week which I attended. It would appear the FLRA is already getting to work on over 300 outstanding cases that have been awaiting action. During the Bush administration the FLRA was cut to bare bones in anticipation of stripping away employee rights as part of the NSPS provisions. Granted it may take some time for the FLRA to get back to full speed but I am convinced that you will soon see a change in FLRA activity in dealing with issues presented to them.
Additionally, Susan Tsui Grundmann has been appointed as the Chair of the Merit System Protection Board. Susan comes from NFFE (AFL-CIO) where she was the General Counsel and has been a friend for many years. I am sure that she will do an excellent job over at the MSPB.
It would seem that the political front is beginning to change a bit in DC as evidenced by recent appointments and the Armed Services Conference Committees actions. It is about time. Frustration is part of our lives as union leaders. But we must never give up the fight whether it is at the national level fighting NSPS and pushing for reforms or at the local level battling for fair and equitable treatment for our members.
Regards and stay safe…
Federal Fire Fighters
International Association of Fire Fighters -AFL-CIO