The House of Representatives considered and passed, by a vote of 241-181, a measure that contained several federal workforce items opposed by NTEU. The measure, H.R. 4361, packaged several existing bills that were reported out favorably by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform earlier this year, and which I have shared with you. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that the President would veto this measure.
Title I of the newly-introduced measured would prohibit collective bargaining on information technology (IT) access issues such as employee access to personal e-mail and web sites in the workplace. Originally introduced by Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL), this section of the bill seeks to exempt from collective bargaining requirements any agency head action limiting access to any web site the agency determines presents a current or possible future security weakness to its information systems. By law, federal employee labor organizations cannot bargain over the substance of an agency’s IT decision or action, only its impact and implementation. Further, current law also already allows agencies to take immediate action without bargaining in an emergency.
Title III of the bill, originally introduced as H.R. 3023 by Representative Ken Buck (R-CO), would extend the current one-year probationary period to two years for new employees hired into the competitive service. Additionally, the two-year probationary period would begin only after any required training for the position, meaning that some employees might serve for several years — or even indefinitely — without actually completing a probationary period depending on how individual agencies interpret the bill’s undefined “formal training” for various positions which remains unclear.
Title V of the bill, originally introduced by Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) as H.R. 4392, would require a detailed annual report from the Office of Personnel Management on agencies’ use of official time for employees performing union representational activities. The bill would require each agency to annually report the total amount of official time granted, the total number of employees provided with official time, as well as the specific types of activities and purpose for which the official time was provided, as well as the resulting impact on agency operations. Additionally, the report would require agencies to report the total square footage of any provided union space. While this measure does not eliminate or place actual limits or restrictions on official time (nor does it require the reporting of individual names of employees who are granted official time), NTEU opposes legislative attempts designed to ultimately restrict and eliminate official time.
NTEU opposes these anti-employee and anti-labor provisions, and will work with allies on Capitol Hill to keep them from being enacted. Rather than spending their time attacking federal employees, Congress should instead be working to fully fund agencies with so few legislative days remaining before the end of the upcoming fiscal year.