About The New Defense Work Rules, At War With One Another
|December 12th, 2006||#1|
| || |
The New Defense Work Rules, At War With One Another info
December 12, 2006
By Stephen Barr
B-4, D-2, K-1, M-1, M-8.
At times yesterday, the courtroom debate about the law that created a new civil service system for the Defense Department sounded like the judges and lawyers were playing Battleship, the game where opponents use a grid to target and sink ships.
The debate, before a three-judge federal appeals panel, focused on seemingly conflicting provisions in the 2003 law that permitted the Pentagon to issue regulations aimed at overhauling workplace rules and installing a pay-for-performance system.
The law's B-4 provision, for example, ensures that Defense civil service employees may join unions and bargain over their working conditions, but the M-1 and M-8 provisions permit the secretary of defense to modify labor rules and override union contracts.
Congress gave the Pentagon a green light to overhaul the personnel rules that apply to Defense civil service employees after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pentagon officials said changes were needed to streamline labor relations and make the department more effective in the fight against terrorism. Unions have claimed that the rules were designed by the Bush administration to gut their rights rather than improve national security.
The courts have mostly sided with the unions, faulting those parts of the new National Security Personnel System that would permit the secretary of defense to put issues off limits for contract talks and break contracts normally considered to be binding on both parties.
In February, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan blocked the Pentagon from launching the new NSPS workplace rules, finding that they failed to ensure collective-bargaining rights and did not provide for an independent, third-party review of labor-management disputes.
The government asked the appeals panel yesterday to reverse Sullivan and allow the NSPS labor rules to go forward. But the government's task has been made more difficult by a separate case involving the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer faulted a similar plan for Homeland Security, and a subsequent appeal also went against the department. The Homeland Security rules are back on the drawing board.
With that backdrop, Judges David S. Tatel, Stephen F. Williams and Brett M. Kavanaugh, on the bench at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, yesterday tried to sort out the NSPS law and how the government has interpreted it.
William Kanter, a Justice Department lawyer representing the Pentagon, contended that Congress defined what issues had to be put on the table for bargaining with unions, put limits on those rights and gave power to the defense secretary to throw out contracts. Certain phrases in the NSPS law makes it different from the Homeland Security statute and the rules blocked by the courts, he argued.
Joseph Goldberg, a lawyer with the American Federation of Government Employees, disagreed, saying that no matter how the government reads various provisions, it must take into account that the law provides for collective bargaining, as guaranteed in current law, and does not clearly eliminate the right of unions to bargain over the "impact and implementation" of management decisions.
Kavanaugh, perhaps in an effort to cut through apparent conflicting provisions, pointed out that NSPS sections K and M -- which curb union rights -- were not passed by the House and Senate but came from closed-door negotiations among lawmakers.
In making that observation, he raised the notion that the addition of two provisions late in the legislative process could be a sign that Congress intended to cancel out other provisions in the NSPS law stipulating employee rights to bargain collectively.
|Springfield Sniper Rifle vs. K98 Sniper Rifle|
|Fierce Iran War Games Are Really A 'Game' Of Intimidation|
|Next Defense Secretary Must Hit Ground Running|
|Bush Asserts U.S. Is Winning Iraq War|
|Why was WWII different than WWI?|