What you can do at the officeAfter receiving hundreds of...

Newswatch...on federal workers

October 16, 1991|By Penny Bender | Penny Bender,States News Service

What you can do at the office

After receiving hundreds of complaints, the Office of Government Ethics probably will revise a proposal that would prohibit federal workers from participating in professional organizations during business hours.

Despite the protests, the final rule won't change substantially, // warned Donald E. Campbell, deputy director of the office.

"I'm sure there are going to be certain modifications," he said. "Many agencies have had such a rule for a long time. This is not just a rule we pulled out of our hats."

The proposed rule would prevent federal employees from performing duties for professional and non-profit organizations on government time. It would leave to the supervisor's discretion an employee's participation in educational programs that contribute to worker performance.

Many federal employees' groups argue that the proposal would hurt the federal government by alienating workers from the private sector and depriving them of valuable administrative experience.

The Federal Bar Association is concerned that its 3,500 members who are federal employees would be cut off from private attorneys as well as important programs that aren't considered educational.

The federal employees who are members of the association contribute valuable insight into such issues as administrative, bankruptcy, energy, immigration, securities and banking law, said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell, president of the association.

Participation in professional programs is as valuable for morale as are "such activities as planning and holding promotion and retirement parties, bridal and baby showers and other events" conducted during work hours, Russell stressed in a letter to the government ethics office.

Jean M. Christiansen, president of the Federally Employed Women, argued that "the regulations as written could have a devastating effect on non-profit employee associations, and could result in many employees being guilty of inadvertently violating provisions of the regulations."

FEW, a non-profit organization, is worried that its members would violate the rule without knowing it. "Such requirements would result in many employees being inadvertently guilty of misconduct by their use of a telephone, fax machine or Xerox machine," Christiansen said.

Christiansen asked the governmental ethics office to move quickly to open up the discussion. "We urge OGE to hold public hearings on the proposed rules so that all interested parties have an opportunity to make their positions known," she said.

The FEW members would prefer to change the wording to exempt those who participate in non-profit groups or have no financial interest in the outside organization.

The final draft of the ethics code will be reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management and the Justice Department, Campbell said. He did not know when the final rule would be implemented.

FDIC must bargain:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ordered the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to negotiate with 8,000 employees who are members of the National Treasury Employees Union.

The FDIC in 1990 refused to negotiate with the union, which represents the FDIC's Division of Liquidation employees. The Federal Labor Relations Authority ordered the corporation in May to bargain with NTEU, but negotiations didn't begin.

The Division of Liquidation employees are temporary contract workers who have no civil service job protection, NTEU President Robert M. Tobias said. "The employees who are entrusted with managing $30 billion in bank assets are being treated like throwaways, and we intend to stop it," Tobias said.

Nudging the president:

Four House and Senate leaders have urged President Bush to appoint the Federal Salary Council, at the request of the National Treasury Employees Union.

The nine-member council, created as part of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, will advise the administration pay adjustments, which start in January 1994.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, who chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and the committee's ranking member, Sen. William Roth, R-Del., joined Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., chairman of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, and that committee's ranking member, Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., in signing the Oct. 4 letter.

The pay-reform law, passed last year, requires the government to study salaries in various localities nationwide as a basis for federal locality pay adjustments.

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