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Nominees Pledge to Improve Management and Employee Relations

Nominees Pledge to Improve Management and Employee Relations

Alyssa Rosenberg | Government Executive

October 21, 2009

President Obama’s nominees to lead the Merit Systems Protection Board on Tuesday told senators that if confirmed they would focus on recruiting talent to replace experienced staffers who are retiring and to meet increasing demands for the agency’s services.

During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, they also pledged to improve MSPB’s outreach, efficiency and clarity of decisions.

Susan Tsui Grundmann, the president’s choice to head the board, said in her written submission to the subcommittee that recruitment was especially critical because the board’s workload was likely to grow. She predicted increasing retirements governmentwide would prompt a jump in unfair labor practice filings at MSPB, as would the return of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan as they sought federal jobs and negotiated veterans preference issues.

“When I began my career, federal service — public service — was something I aspired to,” Grundmann said. “I see no reason why that recruitment effort cannot begin again at law schools. It is the unique opportunity to make an impact …and to protect the merit principles in government.”

The senators conducting the hearing had their own opinions on how MSPB should handle existing cases and on where future ones might originate. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the board should take into account private sector standards for employment when it examined terminations.

“In today’s competitive economic climate, thousands of employees are losing their jobs despite their outstanding performance,” he said. “You must ensure that federal employees are held to the same standards.”

And Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the subcommittee, said it was important for MSPB to be prepared to defend whistleblower rights, particularly if Congress passes bills to grant more protections to employees who report waste, fraud and abuse.

Merit Systems Protection Board

The MSPB is an independent, bipartisan guardian of the merit systems under which Federal employees work. The mission of the MSPB is: To protect Federal merit systems and the rights of individuals within those systems.

Learn more about the Merit Systems Protection Board at their website.

Anne Marie Wagner, nominated to be a member of the board, said she thought it was critical for MSPB to establish a reputation among federal employees and managers as a trustworthy organization. She noted the board already has made strides in efficiency. MSPB reduced the average number of days to process an initial decision from 92 in fiscal 2005 to 83 in fiscal 2009, and cut the average time for the full board to review a case from 268 days in fiscal 2005 to 94 days in fiscal 2009. But Wagner said there was more room for improvement.

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