Agencies ignore travel subsidyWASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara...

Newswatch . . .on federal workers

October 23, 1991|By Nicole Weisensee | Nicole Weisensee,States News Service

WASHINGTON AGREEMENT REACHED: — Agencies ignore travel subsidy

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is concerned that a little-used travel subsidy program will be lost if federal employees aren't allowed to take advantage of it.

Mikulski pushed a measure through Congress last year that allows federal employees to receive free Metro fare cards or bus tokens in an effort to promote transportation efficiency.

The program, which began in Boulder, Colo., and Portland, Ore., would allow federal agencies anywhere to spend as much as $21 per employee a month on transportation.

Few Washington agencies have signed up to participate in the program, which is being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB's review doesn't prevent agencies from participating, an aide to Mikulski says.

The janitorial members of Local 2096 in Dahlgren, Va., have negotiated a new agreement with Lee's Contracting Services Inc. that provides for wage increases in 1992 as well as other benefits.

The employees of Lee's Contracting, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, went on strike Aug. 5 after the company discontinued provisions of a previously negotiated agreement without discussing it with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

On Sept. 5, the U.S. District Court ruled that the contractor had engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered the employer to "rescind all unilaterally established changes in the working conditions to these employees."

A new agreement has been drafted that provides for pay increases in 1992 and continues past working conditions in the previous agreement, including sick and annual leave provisions and contributions to the employees' health and welfare trust funds.

The Navy maintained a position of neutrality during the dispute -- hTC a position that has upset Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., and Reps. William Ford, D-Mich., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the Government Operations Committee.

Ford and Conyers sent a letter to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney recently saying that the Navy's "inaction throughout this entire process concerns us.

"The Navy's policy of inaction might have been appropriate if it had been confronted with an economic strike," Ford and Conyers wrote. "However, in this case, one arm of the government had continued to fund a contractor who has forced another arm of the government, prosecuting unfair labor practices, to spend thousands of dollars in court to obtain an injunction."

They concluded by asking Cheney to see what Navy policy exists that would prohibit the Navy from requiring its contractors to be in compliance with a court order. Lee's Contracting is still not in full compliance with the Sept. 5 court order, they said.

"We are troubled by the allegation that there might be a Navy policy that would prevent the government from requiring its contractors to be in full compliance with any relevant court order as a condition of performance," they wrote.

Robb also wrote to Cheney and asked him to investigate the Navy's inaction.

"At this point, inaction is not neutrality," Robb wrote. "It is support of breaking the law by ignoring court decisions, and it is a continuing waste of the taxpayers' money."

If there is a Navy policy that prevents its contractors from having to be in full compliance with court orders, "it should obviously be addressed by Congress, to ensure its correction," Robb wrote. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) experienced the greatest growth in bargaining unit size of any major federal employees union, according to a recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report.

The number of employees it represents increased by 10 percent from 1989 to 1991, the OPM report says. Titled "Union Recognition and Agreements in the Federal Government," the report lists union representation figures as of January 1991.

NTEU President Robert Tobias attributes the increase of 14,145 employees to the "success of the NTEU movement."

"Since 1977, the NTEU's mission has been to organize federal employees in key civilian agencies to give those employees greater power in the legislative process and a stronger voice in workplace decision-making," Tobias says.

Employment of disabled:

A seminar to discuss the best way to employ people with disabilities in the federal work force will be held Oct. 29 in Washington.

"Our job is to continually re-evaluate where we are on improving opportunities for people with disabilities, and reaching out to an even broader segment of the community," says Office of Personnel and Management Director Constance Berry Newman.

At the daylong seminar, entitled ACCESS 2000, federal and private-sector experts will debate issues such as recruiting, hiring, training and partnerships.

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