September 15, 2003
The Labor Management Meeting
As you know, l spent last week in headquarters. First on the agenda was the September 8, 2003, Commission meeting. If you did not have a chance to listen in on the meeting through your office, please let me know. If you were unable to listen in, the public web site, www.eeoc.gov contains a transcript of the meeting testimony and comments, as well as printed copies submitted by most of the speakers. The Union sent its comments to you last week.
According to the public website, the record of the meeting is open until September 22, 2003, for the purpose of receiving additional comments. If you know of a local advocacy group or a group impacted by the proposed changes, contact them and urge them to submit comments. There will not be another opportunity for them to do so. It is important that they do so because the Commission will be different. Exactly how different, remains to be seen. We should use this opportunity to educate our constituents about the forces that will impact our work.
We held the first Labor Management meeting under the purple contract last week. Michael Davidson led a great Union team consisting of Debra Moser, an investigator from the Little Rock Office and Rachel Shonfield an Attorney from the Miami office. Due to unforeseen circumstances affecting Walter Raisner and Kathy Harmon, Pat Floyd from Headquarters agreed to participate for the Union.
The agenda covered a number of items and we were able to make plans for dealing with a good number of issues. The first issue the group addressed was the lack of communications. The Union reiterated that more information must come to the Union sooner – both as a way of keeping our members informed and as a means of being able to address the rumor mill. Following some discussion, management will address this. At the bi-weekly meeting with the Union and at other times when issues arise, management will inform the Union. Management also agreed to provide the union with non-privileged information.
Management requested and the Union agreed to provide the entire grievance file when sending Step 3 grievances. The rationale is to speed up the length of time it takes to get the Step 3 response. In exchange for an agreement not to use the lack of information as a means to reject grievances as incomplete, untimely or for any other purposes, the Union agreed to provide the entire file at Step 3. So, when you move a grievance to Step 3, please make sure to include all of the Step 1 and 2 documents and attachments.
The Union also raised the issue of creating a sense of fairness when transmitting documents; we can accomplish this by submitting the entire file. Failure to submit the entire file whenever anyone in the process submits responses or moves the grievance can create problems for both sides.
The Union saw a demonstration of a program called “QuickTime.” QuickTime is a program that allows employees to enter and the supervisors to manage electronically, leave, and time and attendance records. The current payroll system will merge with QuickTime. The new system will handle payroll, time and attendance, and project accountability
Using QuickTime allows the agency to track the type of work activities, such as intake, hearings, case analysis, etc and the amount of time used on the activities. This is the project accountability piece. This aspect of the program is part of the budget requirement from the White House Office of Management and Budget to base your budget on the types of work you do and the cost of that work.
Management will be making a proposal to the Union as to how it intends to use the QuickTime program here at EEOC. The Union is checking with other unions to get feedback on the issues involved in using this program. If you have comments or concerns about QuickTime, send them to me at Gabrielle.Martin@eeoc.gov or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the agency will have to get on the Department of Interior list (DOI is the contractor for this program), it probably will be after the first of the year and end of the current leave year before EEOC can implement this program. As we discussed, implementation after the end of this leave year allows us to get through the holiday and use or lose seasons. The agency’s current thought is to pilot the program first with the timekeepers and then roll it out to everyone. Once the Union gets a proposal and proposed start date, we can better determine our response.
Management raised a concern about surveying employees and the fact that when the IMS and telework surveys went out, I advised people not to answer until I could get you more information. I advised management that if I knew nothing about a survey and had no information about it, I would advise people not to answer until I could get them some information, particularly because many people asked. The Union agreed to enter into an MOU on the topic of surveys. Management’s position is that it does not want to do more than is required under the law. Since management also agreed to do a better job of keeping the union informed, we will see what happens.
Currently under review is the agency’s Harassment Order. Management’s concern is that the order has no teeth. The Union’s concern is that we give guidance to the Respondent’s and the public about what should be in a harassment policy and the fact that prompt investigation must be part of the policy. Leaving the harassment issue to the grievance, EEO or other statutory processes, all of which contain lengthy time frames for processing ensures both the employee suffering harassment and the agency will unnecessarily remain at risk. The parties agreed to review the harassment order for modifications. Debra Moser and Joann Riggs will work on this.
The parties reviewed the current state of the Telecommuting and Hours of Work Agreements. Following this review, we agreed to investigate the nature and extent of problems in offices that have not reached agreement. Then, we will devise a means to address those outstanding issues, including reviewing section 34.11 of the CBA. Levi and Joann will follow-up on this issue.
Management provided an update on the contracting out situation. The agency is neither contracting out jobs nor holding competitions. According to Jeff Smith, the Chief Financial Officer, the reason for the lack of activity is the current uncertainty about the process. As for those employees in headquarters who are working with the document management system, we were advised that there are contractors looking at the work to determine how to customize a process for scanning documents at EEOC for electronic routing and filing. Management reported that there is no intent to contract out these jobs. This is the first part of an agency wide document management system that would allow for routing, signature and filing of our documents in an electronic format. Finally, the Union requested, and management agreed to provide a list of the current IT contracts approved by the Commission.
We discussed awards and learned that in addition to the CORE awards, the agency had distributed time-off awards to offices in April. The number of hours which went to a district was based on the total number of employees in the district (including area and local office employees), multiplied by five (5). Since those of us at the table were unaware of this, the Union reminded management that the purpose of the awards program was to publicize those activities and actions which the agency values and wants employees to emulate. Since the offices have not advised employees of these awards, that purpose is defeated. Management agreed to change the Performance Recognition Order to make public recognition of the awards mandatory and to send notice to supervisors and directors that they should announce at staff meetings, the recipient of awards, the nature of the award and the basis for making the award to the particular employee. Finally, management agreed to notify the Union when distributing award allotments to offices in the future.
Closely related to the awards issue is the performance management issue. A work group consisting of Levi Morrow and me, along with about 5 other management staff will convene to address our current system. There is a common goal to change this to address the number of tiers. In addition, management expressed concerns about the number of approval reviews an evaluation gets, as well as the lack of discussion between supervisor and employees about what is expected.
Ernestine Jones provided a copy of her working draft for our information. Ernestine explained her thoughts about getting to a four tiered system, but made clear that the workgroup probably has ideas we will consider. We hope to meet on the development of a new system during the month of October, so if you have comments or ideas about what you want in a performance management system, send them to Levi Morrow or me.
There is a management concern to implement a new system sooner, rather than later. We will keep you posted, but sometime during the next fiscal year, we may close out the old PAS system and implement a new performance management system
The Union raised concerns about classification issues and how to get to the GS-13 level for Investigators. WE also discussed concerns about outstanding classification issues with the hearings and support staff. The Union highlighted the fact that our position descriptions are so outdated that their value is questionable. OHR advised that it had asked field directors to look at the position descriptions and make any suggestions for change. Directors have been slow to respond since they do not know how offices will look. We were able to impress upon OHR that the basic skills and requirements of the field jobs will not change that much. There was recognition that the performance management system will be changing and that in the absence of update position descriptions a new performance evaluation system will wreak havoc.
On a related topic, Ron Crenshaw, Levi Morrow and I provided an update of the Staff Development Enhancement Program (SDEP). As currently postured, the Chair would appoint a steering committee to oversee and evaluate the program. Two seats on the steering committee would go to the Union. I designated Levi Morrow and me for those slots. There would be six (6) positions each year. The agency will determine the positions each year; for this year, there is a critical need for investigators.
This is a two year program that would provide extensive training in the first year and extensive mentoring in the second year. The purpose is to prevent a repeat of the situation we saw in the past where successful candidates the situation where trainees immediately are given caseloads because the employee counts as staff available for the purpose of setting office goals. The focus here is ensuring that employees have the best chance to succeed to the journeyman level of the selected positions.
The goal is to have a class as soon as possible, so we will continue to work on the program, evaluation and interview tools, job criteria, and vacancy announcements. The Director of OHR agreed to look into developing a budget for relocation costs, but admitted that the final budget decision is out of her hands.
On the subject of training, we discussed the e-learning program. At one time, there were two separate programs: an e-learning program through a contract with the Department of Transportation and a virtual university available through OPM. We now have a single program. EEOC must pay for everyone who uses this program. There is recognition that not everyone learns best in this way and this may account for some of the lack of use. Other factors are problems with the program if you do not complete a course, little encouragement to use the program and the fact that although the contract provides for 4 hours a pay period of job related training, employees are not given the time.
As now envisioned, there will be 500 training slots. People who used the program in the past, or reserved slots for people who have not used the system, encumber some of the 500 training slots. Management will work to see who wants to use the courses and who is not interested. Then, there will be an announcement about the slots, the program and a call for those interested. A group will come up with selection criteria. The money for the contract is paid, and if we do not use it, the money goes to waste. So, think about this issue and be ready to act if you are interested. I will be the Union contact, so let me know if you have concerns or problems with the current system.
A final issue addressed was the status of the MOU on the Agency’s space guidelines. The MOU addresses a six (6) day per pay period telecommuting program for those employees opting to share offices. The offices would be a shared offices used by the telecommuters. Since these employees would perform the bulk of their work from home, the agency will be providing the necessary equipment, including cell phones, computers, 4-in-1 machines with scan, fax, print and copy capabilities. Laptop computers will be available for this purpose. The agency will service the equipment and provide the necessary programs and internet access. The agency is ready to use some network links for those working at home. Of course, the links are available depending on your position and what programs you need to access. As a result of completing the Space Guidelines MOU, we will be revising Article 34 of the contract. The Space Guidelines MOU must be posted on In Site by next Monday. Stay tuned.
As many of the topics discussed last week are ongoing, your feedback is important. Please let the Chief Negotiator, Levi Morrow and I know about your concerns.