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Minutes of October 2012 Forum meeting

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On October 17, 2012, the Department of Commerce Labor-Management Forum met in Room 6029 of the Herbert Hoover Building, Washington, DC. The meeting started at 1:30 PM and concluded at 3:30 PM.

The members adopted the minutes of the July 18, 2012 Forum meeting.


Budget (Scott Quehl)

The current continuing resolution (CR) is for six months. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been tasked to apportion spending rate that is laid out in CR – apportioned by seasonal rate. The bureaus are spending based on seasonal needs. Management does not think there will be a sequestration and therefore not planning for one.

The Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO’s) office is now receiving spending plans from the bureaus and the Department will send them to OMB for approval. The Department’s FY14 budget is currently at OMB. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving OMB will inform the Department if it approved Commerce’s budget or if additional discussions are needed. The CFO’s office will forward OMB’s decision to the bureaus and the bureau can decide if they want to appeal OMB’s decision or not. Management will them review the bureaus’ responses and consider the merits of appealing individual bureau budgets or a department-wide budget to OMB.

Scott indicated that management would reach out to labor as soon as the President releases his budget. In the highly unlikely event that sequestration happens, there will be a coordinated executive branch effort in dealing with it. As soon as the Department receives the green light to engage anyone, it will engage labor.

    Recognition of Dr. David Wineland (Scott Quehl)

Scott recognized Dr. David Wineland of the National Institute on Standards and Technology (NIST) on being one of two individuals awarded the 2012 Nobel prize in Physics. This was the fourth time in 15 years that an employee of NIST has received a Nobel prize.

Workplace Violence (Tracy Schulberg)

Management has been working with Howard Locker to collect input from labor. Plans are for a conference call within the next few weeks to discuss the suggested revisions.

    Policy Partnership (Bruce Kisliuk)

Labor and Management propose and the Forum approved creation of the “Policy Partnership Working Group” as a pilot to be composed of three management representatives and a representative from the Patent Office Professional Association, the National Weather Service Employees Organization, and one other union. In addition, there will be a note taker. The Policy Partnership Core Group will meet regularly to ensure there are no issues or concerns on either side. The goal of the Core Group is to incorporate streamlined pre-decisional labor input to Departmental HR policies and the duration of the Policy Partnership pilot will be based on the lifecycle of a pre-determined number of policies. Metrics will be established.

Policies for potential inclusion in the pilot would include policies normally generated by the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM); policies normally subject to the National Consultation Rights of selected unions; policies that have not been drafted and are still in the conceptual stages; and policies would be mutually agreed upon by labor and management. The Policy Partnership will autonomously develop its own charter.

    Conferences (Scott)

There is a need for management and labor to consider variety of factors when proposing to attend conferences. Public perception of Government employees attending conferences is not very favorable at this time. Management and labor need to consider all aspects of the conference, what “frills” are included. Perhaps unions could reach out conference planners to provide input on what extra are being included in the conference.

    Meeting date of the Forum (Jonathan Markley)

Jonathan suggested the Forum change its schedule to meet on Tuesdays rather than Wednesdays. This would give members, labor and management, opportunity to attend the meetings of the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations that meets on Wednesdays. This matter was tabled until Dan Sobien can be briefed on the recommendation.

    Working Group Reports

Metrics. (Tyra Dent Smith)

A report by the Department on the use of metrics by its councils/committees is due to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations by December 31. This is an annual requirement from the Council. Last year’s report has been circulated to the bureaus involved (Census, EDA, PTO (3), ITA, and the Department) for review and updating. Randy Myers requested the Forum be permitted to see the report before it is sent to the National Council. A draft of the 2012 report will be circulated among the members before it is sent to the National Council.

The Department has been successful in using VERA/VSIPs and management is planning to go to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to get an extension. Single bureau requests for additional number of VSIPs with extensions are incorporated in that request to OPM. OPM has approved the NOAA request. The Department has authority for all VSIPs through 2013.

The Department put out a data call to other bureaus to inquire about their interest and responses were received from BEA, NIST, CFO/ASA (except OFM) in the affirmative through December 2016. ITA is not interested in an extension. The Department will consolidate and compile the date (due October 26) and due to OPM by November 9.

The Department cannot ask for a blanket request; each one has to be based on a restructuring plan. OPM is very strict and the Office of Management and Budget is very interested in positions vacated. A report on how much was saved due to VSIPs will be sent out to the members before January.

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey goal of a 70% response rate was met or exceeded by five bureaus. The overall response rate for the Department was 59%, up from the 56% rate for 2011. The Government response rate for 2012was 46%. OPM has not yet sent the results to agencies, but we expect to receive in November.

We are waiting for the official data call from OPM for telework data. The data call should be coming between October 24 and November 30. That data call will be for FY12. A review of the data for Pay Periods 18 and 19 for FY11 compared to FY12 shows an increase of 53% in the number of days from FY11 to FY12.

A union member stated that the Forum have to think of alternative ways to measure. Another comment was the need for standard definition of “eligible” and to update (quarterly) the number of eligibles. Eligibility numbers are currently tracked manually once a year.

Scott responded for metrics working group to confer with Facilities, Danette Campbell, Laurie Schwede, and the Forum to find ways to measure.

New Business

A motion was made and adopted that DOC would continue partnership regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election.

Action Items

    • Action Item – Report to the Forum in January on action plans to build response rate, and identify those areas of particularly low response These actions plans will be coordinated with the Bureaus.

    • Action Item – Provide the Forum with the input from committees/councils use to prepare the annual report to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations on metrics.

    • Action Item – Metrics group to devise the Return on Investment (ROI) looking at those eligible to telework; save by having one workstation for two people who then have to telework 3 days minimum.

    • Action Item – Tracy Schulberg to check with OPM to see if the B1 Printer Pilot Project was approved.

The next meeting of the Forum will be January 16, 2013.

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