Labor-Management Forums and Performance

Some things can move fast in bureaucracies!  President Obama signed Executive Order 13522, “Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services,” in early December to resurrect the labor-management partnerships from the Clinton era. OMB guidance on developing agency implementation plans came out a few weeks later.  To date, a national council has been created – and held substantive meetings – and 50 agencies have submitted plans to the Council on how they are going to implement the Order.  The Council reviewed the plans last month and sent half of them back for revisions, which are due later this week.

The E.O. is framed around an appealing premise: “Federal employees and their union representatives are an essential source of front-line ideas and information about the realities of delivering Government services to the American people.”   The forums are to be “nonadversarial” and comprised of managers, employees, and employees’ union representatives.

OMB guidance also clarifies that the effort is intended to focus the role of these forums on achieving measurable results that align with agencies’ missions and strategic goals.

What is in the E.O.? The E.O. says agencies will work with unions to:

  • Establish, or adapt, existing department- or agency-level labor-management forums (LMFs) “at appropriate levels in their organizations.
  • Allow employees and their union representatives to have pre-decisional involvement in workplace matters “to the fullest extent practicable.”
  • Evaluate and document changes in employee satisfaction, manager satisfaction, and organizational performance resulting from LMFs
  • Develop written implementation plans, which were due March 9th..

These plans are expected to describe:

  • the process the Agency will undertake to design and implement LMFs at appropriate levels within the Agency;
  • the process the LMF will undertake to develop a limited number of mission-linked or process-improving performance goals;  and
  • a plan for developing Agency and/or bargaining unit-specific metrics to monitor progress toward these goals and performance trends in key areas such as labor-management satisfaction, productivity gains, cost savings, and other measures as identified by the relevant LMF participants.

What Are Some of the Best Practices Related to Performance?

The Council has identified some best practices related to improving agency performance, to date. For example:

  • In the area of mission-linked or process-improving performance goals, the Department of Education says it will adopt metrics from the 2008 federal human capital survey and identify mission and process goals after receiving input from lower level forums and joint work groups.
  • Veterans Affairs says it will use annual employee survey and labor-management collaboration to develop metrics.
  • the National Credit Union Administration is the first national partnership agreement under the new EO .  In it, all parties have  agreed to bargain over “(b)(1)” issues (which define the scope of bargaining), regarding the methods and means of performing work.

Probably one of the best plans so far is the one developed by the Department of Homeland Security.  Its plan establishes a good overall framework for engagement and commits to conducting a baseline assessment of the Department’s labor-management relations by September 2010.

What’s Next?

Agencies will need to submit a report on their progress by the end of the year.  The E.O. sunsets in December 2011, so there is pressure on all sides to demonstrate its value in contributing to measurable progress toward improving government services!

Have you heard anything in your agency about the forums?

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