Eye Opener: Big Victories for Federal Employees
Happy Thursday! Federal employees, their unions and sympathetic lawmakers won their long-sought repeal of the National Security Personnel System on Wednesday, much to the surprise of some who thought it might have at least one more year to go.
The repeal came as part of a compromise House and Senate members announced in their negotiations over the Defense Department authorization bill, yours truly writes in Thursday's Post. The Pentagon maintains more performance management and hiring flexibility than other federal agencies. Congress approved the system for Pentagon employees in 2003.
“By this action, the conferees have declared NSPS to be a failure. As long as NSPS was in place there was a danger that such flawed practices could be adopted throughout government," said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
Kelley's union does not represent workers directly impacted by NSPS, but does represent workers impacted by other big changes: Members of the Civil Service Retirement System will be able to work part-time toward the end of their career without jeopardizing their pensions. Members of the Federal Employees Retirement System, workers will have sick leave credited to them when they retire. Agencies will also be able to hire back federal retirees under certain conditions and these workers will be able to receive a new salary while keeping their pension.
"These provisions would ensure justice for hundreds of thousands of public servants," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee handles federal employee issues.
"This was a very good day for the federal workforce," said Randy Erwin, legislative director for the National Federation of Federal Employees. His union was most pleased with the changes for federal retirees.
Though members of the House and Senate both want an end to NSPS, members of the House seemed most committed to its repeal in conference negotiations, according to Congressional sources.
The unions credited Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who led the negotiations and also called out Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) earned special praise for not only agreeing to the repeal but also convincing skeptical colleagues.
"It was Steve [Lynch] in the conference who really pushed that these be included," said Rep. James Moran (D-Va.), referring to the changes to FERS. "I really owe him and federal employees do too." The Northern Virginia lawmaker has long fought for changes to FERS, but had no role in the conference negotiations.
"I really can't say enough about Sketlon, Levin and McCain," said AFGE President John Gage. "They really courageously stood up this time and repealed a terrible idea."
"I will be grateful when all those federal employees who have been putting off retirement in anticipation of this legislation passing can finally start planning for their lives beyond working for the federal government," said NFFE National President William R. Dougan.
If the Defense authorization bill passes as expected, the Pentagon must halt NSPS by the start of 2012. As for what happens then, stay tuned.
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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