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Union Leaders Make Pay-for-Performance Reform Major Priority

Alyssa Rosenberg | Government Executive

September 07, 2009

“Everyone’s feeling very positive about the opportunities we have before us,” she said. “Our focus, and our request of [Berry], has been to look at what can and should be done to make the federal workplace what he says he wants it to be. I think that starts with involving employees.”

Like Moten, Kelley said her union’s convention focused not on new grass-roots campaigns, but on reinvigorating members who had been working hard on the union’s legislative program. Those issues include winning paid parental leave for federal employees, shoring up rights for whistleblowers, and giving Transportation Security Administration employees the right to bargain collectively, she said. The NTEU conference also focused on preparing members for the 2010 midterm elections.

Similarly, Biggs said IFPTE’s convention was dedicated mostly to issues that were already on the union’s agenda, including reforms to the pension system for administrative law judges and moving federal employees covered by nonforeign area cost-of-living adjustments into the locality pay system. Navy employees also raised concerns about not being paid overtime on overseas assignments, something Biggs said the union was looking into.

Biggs, Moten and Kelley all agreed their members were impatient to see change, both from Congress and the administration.

“There were many who believed and hoped on Jan. 21 it would be like flipping a light switch,” Kelley said. “Well, that’s not the way it works.”

Moten said the slow appointments process meant that for many federal employees, their working conditions and the policies that set the direction for their work had changed little since the beginning of the Obama administration.

And Biggs noted that IFPTE members were trying to be patient even as the administration made decisions that upset them, like the choice to pursue a 2 percent civilian pay hike rather than pushing for parity between military and civilian raises.

“We view [Obama] as a friend, but we want to make sure that we represent our members’ interest,” Biggs said.


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