Union warily eyes merit payWASHINGTON -- Changes...


Union warily eyes merit pay

WASHINGTON -- Changes must be made in the current labor law if merit pay is to be used for federal workers, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

"We must make sure that employees have an honest and equal voice in any pay-for-performance process," says John Sturdivant, AFGE national president. "This means the scope of collective bargaining must be broadened through law."

Sturdivant argues that pay-for-performance can be implemented only through collective bargaining, and therefore the current labor law governing federal workers must be changed to broaden the scope of collective bargaining.

The AFGE holds two seats on the 12-member federal Pay-for-Performance Labor-Management Committee, which released its executive summary recently to the Office of Personnel Management.

Noting that there is insufficient evidence to show that pay-for-performance programs are effective, the committee suggested a period of "extensive and comprehensive experimentation" to test its effectiveness.

In addition, federal agencies should have the authority to set up pay-for-performance programs that satisfy their specific needs, the report said.

"Agency heads should be provided broad discretion to delegate authority to appropriate levels to address work-force diversity and organizational culture requirements," the report said.

Furthermore, pay-for-performance programs must ensure that employees are treated fairly and equitably and must give full consideration to the nature and diversity of the work force, it said.

Worker protection:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is a co-sponsor of a bill introduced last week that would give congressional workers the same types of protection that private employees have.

The bill, called the Congressional Accountability Act of 1991, would force Congress to apply to its own staff civil rights and labor laws passed over the last 50 years.

"This legislation would force Congress to abide by the same laws it passes," Mikulski said. "Just as businesses and the federal government must follow civil rights and labor laws, Congress must do the same. It's high time to pass this bill and make Congress live up to the expectations it has for the rest of the nation."

The laws from which Congress and its employees are exempt include the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1978 and amendments of 1975, the Occupational Safety Health Act of 1970, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Ethics and Government Act of 1978.

The Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct now resolve any congressional employment and civil rights disputes.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will review the Congressional Accountability Act.

Hazardous waste:

Bills giving states and the Environmental Protection Agency greater power to require federal agencies to obey hazardous-waste laws passed both houses this year, but they will have to be resolved in a conference committee next year.

The federal government is not exempt from anti-pollution laws, including the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the nation's principal hazardous-waste law.

But several federal agencies -- including the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy -- have failed to clean up waste, especially waste generated from nuclear weapons production.

The bills would give the EPA the authority to issue administrative orders -- backed up by potential fines -- to force compliance with RCRA. And the legislation clarifies states' authority, which has been stifled because some courts have ruled that federal agencies are immune from state enforcement efforts.

The House passed its version June 24; the Senate OK'd its version Oct. 24. The chief difference is that the Senate bill would allow agencies to put off action on currently untreatable wastes that are mixtures of radioactive and hazardous materials.

No drug testing for Congress:

A measure that would have forced members of the House to submit to random drug testing -- as must many federal employees -- was dropped by a House-Senate conference committee last week.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, would have required a random 10 percent of House members to be tested each month. The results would be reported to the House Ethics Committee and be reported publicly during October of election years.

Barton got his proposal attached to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act through a procedural twist in October, but a conference committee dropped it last week.

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