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Minutes for 4-18-12 Forum Meeting

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On April 18, 2012, the Department of Commerce Labor-Management Forum met in the Herbert C. Hoover Building, Room 4830. The meeting started at 1:30 PM and concluded at 4:30 PM

Approval of the Minutes of the April 18, 2012 Forum Meeting

Mr. Quehl, Management Co-chair, moved to approve the minutes of the January 18, 2012 Forum meeting. The members adopted the minutes without objection.



    • House and Senate subcommittees have marked up Budget bills and the draft legislation goes to the House Appropriations subcommittee. The Senate will meet this week and there should be full Committee action by Tuesday, April 24.

    • Sequestration is not something anyone one wants. It is an alternative path to reaching deficit reduction; a last resort that all sides agreed to accept. A decision needs to be made by

January 13 regarding deficit reduction. If no decisions were reached, several triggers would direct reductions. It is impossible to know how to this process will affect the Department of Commerce. There could be a 7.8% reduction or larger reductions; there is simply no way at this time to know.

    • Management cannot say for certainty that there will be no reductions-in-force (RIFs). Some bureaus may see an increase in their budget (such as USPTO) and others will see their budgets reduced (NTIS TIP program). Management is doing everything it can to reduce the impact of any budget cuts.

    • In the area of the CFO/ASA and the Office of the Secretary, management has implemented budget reductions to fund cyber security. To pay for cyber security, management reduced the administrative budget and the capital working fund budget. Census is reducing the number of regional offices and will be conducting a RIF.

    • The International Trade Administration (ITA) is working on a reorganization plan and buyouts are being offered. Historically, Government-wide, buyouts typically have a 1% response rate, but the current DOC-wide response rate is around 30%.

    • Bill Fleming – there are a number of resume building and job placement services available to employees. Human Resources Offices are working with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to identify these available resources.

    • Dan Sobien (Labor Co-chair) – How should employees could go about getting qualified for positions other that their current one? An HR specialist can identify positions an employee is qualified for and map out ways to get that training. However, one needs to be careful because Government cannot pay for all training; it typically has to be aligned with mission.

    • Bill Fleming, Director for Human Resources Management – there has been no involuntary separations to date; management has worked hard utilizing buyouts and had some success in resume bank placements. The Department has authorization for buyouts through December 2012.

Workplace Violence (Bill Fleming)

We have collaborated with the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Security in drafting a Workplace Violence policy. The President has issued a Memorandum to Heads of Departments and Agencies on Domestic Violence calling on OPM and several other agencies to develop guidance on domestic violence. Once that guidance is issued, the Department and other agencies will have to develop their own specific policy for review by the Office of Personnel Management. Management will submit its draft policy on Workplace Violence for National Consultation with the National Weather Service Employees Organization and the Patent Office Professional Association once the draft is completed.

Herbert C. Hoover Building Safety Update

Mary Pleffner, Director for Administrative Services, briefed the Forum members on an incident involving potential exposure to asbestos on the eighth floor during the period of 2002 – 2007. Management is attempting to identify any employees who may have been exposed to asbestos during the time period in question. Ms. Pleffner informed the Forum that the renovation is continuing and, as each phase is completed, it is asbestos free.

The A level of swing space suffered water damage because of the earthquake, with the drainage system under the basement suffering some damage. Under the slab were gravel and a French drain system. The earthquake and the high rain damaged parts of the drainage field, reducing the effectiveness of the drainage system. Everyone was moved out of the A level, the drain field was repaired, holes filled, and the Department has been conducting air and mold tests for several months. The test results have been within established norms.

Telework (Danette Campbell, USPTO)

The Telework workshop at the USPTO on March 15 included Department telework coordinators and union representatives. The workshop was well received with participants learning what other agencies are doing; provided an opportunity for sharing best practices of the network members.

The Telework Charter was adopted as amended.

Laurie Schwede, from AFGE Census, raised several points concerning the current way the Department is measuring telework statistics according to the new definition from the Office of Personnel Management of “eligibility to participate in telework.” The definition has some limitation, the primary one is that it does permit the department disaggregate the number of employee who are technically eligible to apply to telework, but haven't yet done so, from all of those who are "not eligible to participate in telework."

Video Teleconferencing

Management is planning to present a proposal to the Deputy Secretary to use shared video teleconferencing with the proposed execution in two phases. The system used by the Bureau of Industry and Security provides the means for point-to-point conferencing. The second phase will extend capability to mobile devices, laptops, etc.

Purchasing of printers (Anne Rung)

Anne Rung, Office of the CFO/ASA, presented a proposed policy dealing with the way printers are purchased by the Department. Printers would be obtained from one of five sources (the BPA is already in use Government-wide), but would provide management and employees with options on the types of printers and the specifics of the printers. The policy would provide a basis for determining a baseline that would be used to measure various metrics in evaluating the proposed policy.

The Innovations Working Group, subsequent to the Forum meeting, conducted a teleconference and agreed to recommend to the Forum that the Printer Policy be supported by the Forum as a B1 pilot project and submitted to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. On April 23, 2012, a call-in meeting of the Forum heard the report from the Innovations Working Group and adopted the recommendation to support the Printer Policy as a B1 Pilot Project for submission to the National Council.

HR Connect (Bill Fleming, Director for Human Resources Management)

The Department is implementing HR Connect, a Human Resources Management System offered by the Department of the Treasury. HR Connect is a modern cost effective system to provide efficiency and better customer service. Employees and managers can utilize the system as a means of self-service permitting employees to perform various HR functions. HR Connect will enable a number of FTEs to be redirected from HR processing to HR consulting work.

The HR Connect slides presented at the forum were forwarded on 4/23/12 to members following the meeting.

The next meeting of the Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

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