Drug-testing deal reachedThe Defense Contract Audit Agency...

Newswatch . . .on federal workers

December 11, 1991|By Kate McKenna | Kate McKenna,States News Service

WASHINGTON — Drug-testing deal reached

The Defense Contract Audit Agency and the American Federation of Government Employees have reached an agreement that modifies portions of the agency's drug-testing plan.

The audit agency's post-accident and reasonable suspicion drug-testing programs in the plan were revised as a result of negotiations last week with the union, which represents 700,000 government workers in the United States and overseas. The programs would be initiated only when damages of $10,000 or more have occurred and/or physical harm has resulted from an accident.

Changes in the agency's reasonable suspicion testing program, also in the plan, narrowed the discretion of supervisors and limited direct observation when collecting urine specimens.

"As a result of the substantial case law . . . the agency realized that portions of their drug-testing plan would be found unconstitutional," said John N. Sturdivant, AFGE national president.

"If more money were put into education and rehabilitation and less money spent in court actions to erode the constitutional rights of federal workers, this nation's drug abuse problem would be greatly reduced," Sturdivant said.

Agreement was not reached, however, on the agency's proposed random drug-testing program. DCAA policy calls for random testing of all auditors with security clearances. The AFGE objects to testing of auditors with "confidential" clearances.

The matter will be decided in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Lowdown on downsizing:

Now that the debate on military downsizing has been settled, the major questions remaining center on how the process will be handled.

Quick to jump on the issue of how federal workers would be affected was the human resources subcommittee of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, which has scheduled a hearing today.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Pa., was to focus on the need to compile a more comprehensive figure on the number of civilian employees who would be the target of reductions-in-force, the projected timing of such cutbacks, and whether current programs to assist displaced federal workers are adequate to accommodate the growing demand for retraining and placement.

In assessing the current programs to assist displaced federal civilian employees, American Federation of Government Employees vice president David Schlein has said that the union believes the programs "provide an adequate basis from which to approach the problem, but selected enhancements, continuous planning and periodic evaluation will be essential to meet the objectives."

Schlein also plans to recommend four points he believes to be essential in helping workers through such downsizing. These "cornerstones" include:

* Maintaining current programs that offer relocation assistance, severance pay and other allowances.

* Implementing early-retirement enhancements.

* Using the Department of Defense Priority Placement Program as downsizing takes effect.

* Establishing a Placement and Training Center at every DOD installation that is closing or undergoing a substantive reduction in personnel.

"AFGE views these placement centers as vital to the downsizing effort," said Schlein, who will call for the centers to provide access to the Priority Placement Program, counseling, testing, training referral, job bank information and placement assistance.

The PPP program has placed more than 100,000 workers since 1965. Finding new jobs for the number of employees expected to be displaced by military downsizing would potentially require the program to place the same number of DOD employees over the next six years as it has placed over the last 26 years.

AFGE also plans to testify in favor of legislation sponsored by Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would allow federal workers who are at or near retirement to add four years of credit to their ages or years of service, or a combination of both, so they would be encouraged to retire early.

"This bill would soften the blow for older employees and, at the same time, save severance pay and relocation costs while preserving jobs for younger, lower salaried employees," says Schlein, adding that the measure would be cost-effective.

Also on tap:

Keeping busy while Congress enjoys its winter recess, Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Pa., has scheduled another Human Resources subcommittee hearing Friday on the use of temporary employees in federal agencies.

Amid stories and complaints about temporary workers who have been on staff for 10 or more years, the subcommittee will be investigating how the temporary appointment privilege is used by federal agencies.

"There seems to be a good deal of confusion out there about what constitutes temporary work," said one committee aide.

"With budgetary constraints and cutbacks in military and other agencies, there may be more pressure on management to use temporary workers," said the aide. "So we need to look at these practices."

Among those asked to testify are representatives of the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and officials of federal agencies, including the Defense Department, the National Forest Service and the General Accounting Office.

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