On January 18, 2012, the Department of Commerce Labor-Management Forum met in Room 4830, Herbert C. Hoover Building. The meeting started at 1:30 PM and concluded at 4:23 PM.
Approval of the Minutes of the Last Meeting
Mr. Quehl moved to approve the meeting minutes from the September 21, 2011 meeting. The members approved the minutes.
The President’s Proposed Reorganization of the Department of Commerce
Departing from the agenda, Mr. Quehl devoted time to discuss the President’s announced intent to seek reorganization authority from Congress and reorganize the Department of Commerce and other trade agencies. Mr. Quehl announced:
• The new (and, as yet, unnamed Department) would have four functions:
o Business and Economic Support;
o Data Collection; and
o Innovation and Commercialization.
• Reduction in the size of the workforce is expected to occur through attrition without the need for reduction-in-force (RIF).
• The President will ask Congress for legislative authority similar to that used by President Carter to reorganize the Government in 1978 (that legislation expired in 1984).
• Under the requested legislation, the President would submit specific reorganization proposals and Congress would have to either pass or reject the proposal.
• This is a long-term process, using pre-decisional engagement. The new Department would have one web site.
• CommerceConnect will be an important piece streamlining government services to be more customer-friendly. In 2011, Commerce rolled out CommerceConnect, a virtual “one-stop-shop” for businesses in 17 cities covering most of our Bureaus and 73 Commerce services that support businesses. Commerce was also selected to help co-lead BusinessUSA, a federal customer service initiative that links American businesses and communities to a portfolio of Commerce and other Federal, state and local partner resources. This means adopting a "No Wrong Door" policy that uses technology to quickly connect businesses to the services and information relevant to them, regardless of which agency's website, call center, or office they go to for help.
Mr. Curtis (AFSA/ITA): Is the Administration going to seek input from labor and how would they do it.
Mr. Quehl: The Forum will discuss when the process is more developed. The President does not yet have the authority to reorganize. Congress and how quickly they approve granting the President authority to move forward will dictate the pace.
Mr. Friedman: Are there other ways to permit labor to participate in cost savings projects other than reorganizations?
Mr. Sobien: Recommend the Forum invite the trade functions to participate in the discussions of the Forums.
Mr. Curtis: Can we begin to work with the unions in other agencies impacted by the reorganization?
Mr. Quehl: Suggested a group help coordinate. Mr. Curtis and Mr. Markley volunteered to lead effort (with NOAA, Census, PTO and EDA represented).
o February 4 – release of the Administration’s FY2013 Budget
o PTO will be hiring
o NIST is losing positions
o 1681 requested
o 1173 approved (authority is good through 12/31/12)
o One hundred thirty-one buyouts taken for a 27% acceptance rate versus a 1% Government-wide acceptance rate. Management at their discretion offers buyouts.
o Mr. Markley suggested moving up buyouts earlier in the year rather than later (October or later) in the year.
o Mr. Fleming noted that the Bureaus have the authority now, but it is up to the Bureaus as to when they offer the buyouts.
• Resume Bank
o Thirty-five volunteers from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have submitted resumes as part of the process of looking for another position. If a match is found between a vacancy in the Department and the resume, the vacancy is not posted until the manager has interviewed the employee. The manager has the discretion to fill or not fill the vacancy with the volunteer. To date, there has been one placement to NOAA from the resume bank.
o The Resume Bank attempts to relocate employees likely to be RIF’d to other positions
o Once Reduction-in-force (RIF) notices are issued, the resumes are withdrawn and the volunteers are given the RIF rights.
o The servicing human resources office (SHRO) makes the final position on whether there is a match between the resume and the vacancy.
• Meeting with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM ) on the Department’s B1 Pilot Project (Travel)
o OPM staff, on behalf of the National Council of Federal Labor-Management Relations, invited Andy Winer and Dan Sobien (Forum’s Labor Co-chair) to discuss the Department’s pilot project – the Travel Project.
o The briefing proved to be broader in scope than originally conveyed by OPM. OPM did not share the questions in advance, as promised.
o Mr. Sobien and Mr. Winer used the meeting as an opportunity to explain to the National Council staff how the lessons learned from bargaining over the Pilot project have been used by management and labor to deal with very complex issues at NOAA.
o Mr. Winer will review the meeting minutes.
• Telework Go-to-Team (Danette Campbell, USPTO)
o The Go-To-Team was created at the direction of the Forum.
o A second workshop was held in November 2011 with representatives from the Department, USPTO, and other components.
§ The charter calls for nine members; two from each of the USPTO’s bargaining units, one from Census, the Department’s Telework Program Manager, and USPTO’s Senior Advisor on Telework (who will be the management Co-chair). Labor will select its Co-chair.
§ The Forum must approve changes to the charter.
§ Goals of the charter include:
Ø assisting the Department and its Bureaus regarding telework policy, eligibility, and training of participants and supervisors;
Ø developing recommendations for innovative ways to improve the telework initiatives in the Department’s bureaus; and
Ø developing recommendations for consideration by the Forum regarding systemic challenges to telework programs in the Department, as well as providing the Forum with periodic updates on the Go-To-Team activities and progress.
o The Co-chairs of the Go-to-Team, along with the Department’s Program Manager for Telework, to develop best practices. The best practices will serve as guidelines.
o The Labor Co-chair indicated that labor was not comfortable that the Go-To-Team is comprised of all USPTO and Census when it appears the Team will be advising the entire Department on policy.
o A member of the Forum expressed concern about the role of the Go-To-Team regarding each bureau’s development of its own telework policy.
o Ms. Campbell emphasized that the Go-To-Team is a place to go for information, samples and best practices. Several members felt the Charter fails to identify how it will promote telework and does not address the need to change the culture in the Department.
o Ms. Campbell indicated that she would urge the telework coordinators to invite their labor representatives to the quarterly meetings at USPTO.
o Robert Budens expressed a feeling that there is a need to involve labor largely in the process, need to ensure that labor members receive materials. He also felt that it does not seem that labor is an equal partner. The process appears to be a “talk down” approach – form USPTO to bureaus. As a follow-up, Mr. Budens will send labor names to Danette Campbell, to ensure that she sends the materials directly to them if they are not able to attend the meetings.
o Several labor members discussed the need to change the culture at the Department where the default position is telework, unless there is some reason for not permitting the employee to telework.
o Dan Sobien suggested the group should be more focused on metrics – specifically number of employees teleworking per Bureau. Scott Quehl said the charter should be modified to include telework metrics for participation rates by Bureau (report cards).
• Telework Action Items agreed to by the Forum:
o Howard Friedman and Bob Budens to identify a labor Co-chair of the Go-To-Team.
o Howard Friedman to add one additional bullet to the Go-To-Team’s charter on “advancing/promoting telework.”
o Laurie Schwede from AFGE/Census to add language to the Go-To-Team charter highlighting strong management/labor partnership on this initiative
o The Go-To-Team will also add to their responsibilities tracking bureau participation in telework as part of their activities to advance/promote it.
o Danette Campbell to send the meeting materials directly to bureau labor representatives.
• Employee Validation Survey
o The highest percentages of negative responses were management’s response to poor performance and reasonable workload.
o There is a considerable amount of data and it is on the OHRM website.
o OHRM will reach out to agencies with positive results to see why they did better.
• Travel Savings – Mary Pleffner, Director, Office of Administrative Services.
o Last FY, the Department had $250,000 in gross savings, but it could not be determined how many tickets remain unused.
o Policies are under development to include a more rigorous approval process, and at a higher level, to help drive savings in several areas. The areas of focus include expenses above the per diem rate and premium travel.
§ The Department spent $300,000 in expenses above the per diem rates. The Bureau points of contact suggested that the new policy limit bureaus to approving only 200% above per diem, down from the current 300%.
§ The Department spent $2M on upgrades from coach to premium travel last year – this is the difference in cost between premium and coach. The Office of Administrative Services (OAS) within the Office of the Secretary is recommending international travelers take breaks when traveling, and not use the “14 hour” rule. Recommendation to raise requests for premium to COO or equivalent level approval.
o Several labor members requested a breakdown of the overages by management and staff. Mr. Quehl and Ms. Pleffner stated that it is difficult to generate detailed reports without a great deal of manual effort. Ms. Pleffner agreed to go back and review any additional information she may have available.
Working Group Updates and Action Items
o Laurie Schwede will replace Russ Davis on the Innovation Working Group.
o Bob Budens and Randy Myers mentioned a contract in place at USPTO that provides information on child care/elder care through the Federal Occupational Health Services (EOP/FOH). They suggested that perhaps this could be a Department wide contract.
o The Forum identified its next B1 pilot project - consolidation of network storage, targeting a specific bureau or organization within a bureau (NOAA was suggested).
o Anne Rung will contact Census acquisition to get more information, and then reach out to the CIO council to schedule a discussion between Census, Forum Innovation Working Group, and the target bureau team.
o Anne Rung will draft message from the Secretary. The Forum requested that it include language in support of telework.
o The Forum would like additional information to better understand who is going above per diem or utilizing premium rates.
o Metric working group should reach out to Mary Pleffner to see what type of reporting is available. Scott Quehl stated that we would not ask her team to manually pull information, as she does not have the resources.
The meeting adjourned at 4:23 PM.
Minutes approved by Forum at 4-18-12 meeting