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April 15, 2015

Table of contents

Approval of April 15, 2015 minutes (5 minutes)

Shared Services – Ellen Herbst, et.al. [90 minutes] 

CALL IN NUMBER 866-453-8771 PASS CODE 2785164

Meeting Minutes

April 15, 2015

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4830, Washington, DC 20230

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Attendees: On the Phone: Renee Desrosiers, Mary Saunders, Vonda Bell, and Mitch McDonald sign-in sheet for participants around the room.
Documents: Minutes from the February meeting of the Forum, Phased Retirement Policy Summary

Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor


Agenda Item: Introductions/Approval of February Minutes
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Introductions were done around the room and on the phone. A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on February 19, 2015, and minutes were approved without any amendments.

Agenda item: Meeting with OPM on FEVS
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

Mr. Mahoney has reached out to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), specifically the person who produces the Federal Employee Viewpoint (FEVS) survey, to schedule a time for a meeting. It was confirmed that OPM is open to the discussion, and that the delay is a result of scheduling issues. Mr. Mahoney will communicate the date of the meeting to the Labor Management Forum (Forum), once scheduled. The Forum was reminded that this would not impact this year’s survey, but potentially the next survey. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Communicate date of OPM meeting with Forum Kevin Mahoney ASAP

Agenda item: Providing Gold and Silver Award Criteria and the President’s Customer Service Award Criteria to Forum
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith

After the February meeting of the Forum, Ms. Smith sent the members the criteria for Honor Awards and the new President’s Customer Service Award in February and April. The new award nomination process will build on the foundation in place for the current Honor Awards since there is already a customer service category. Those who are nominated for the gold award may be considered for the President’s Customer Service award. This is not a monetary award. The new award is intended to celebrate how Government provides service to individual citizens, and since the Department provides services to business, universities, and state and local governments, it will participate in this nomination process. It was asked if union representatives could participate on the board, and Ms. Smith stated she will follow up on this. The stake holders for the new award are the President’s Management Advisory Board (less than 10 people from the private sector, former CEO’s, etc…), who are formed to advise the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and weigh in on customer service and management measures. Mr. Mahoney stated in the past that labor has been a stakeholder, but will confirm this. It was confirmed that nothing is changing with the current Honor Awards process, and that the new award nomination is simply building on what is already in place. The Secretary should receive two nominations (gold award recipients for customer service) to consider; however the idea of having more than two nominations was discussed.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Follow up on union participation on Honor Awards board Valerie Smith TBD
Follow up on labor representation for President’s Management Advisory Board Kevin Mahoney TBD

Agenda item: Department’s Efforts to be #1
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney, Mr. Howard Friedman


The discussion began with the Forum recognizing that part of being #1 is to help NOAA with establishing councils/committees at the local level of recognition. It was made apparent that some frustration was occurring over the lack of progress on issues acknowledged. At the bargaining unit level in Seattle, there is a council that meets three times a year to discuss emerging issues and to work together towards solutions. There has been some resistance with other bargaining units setting up councils within NOAA at the level of recognition. It was made clear that there were two levels (level of recognition and higher level) of councils being discussed, and that more clarity was needed in order to assure that NOAA is upholding the charter. 

In order to clarify expectations, Ms. Herbst proposed a meeting with NOAA representatives to discuss what’s agreeable to move forward with, what disagreements there are, and how to move forward. This meeting will be facilitated by Mr. Mahoney and Ms. Herbst, with participation from Mr. Friedman. There was overall agreement that this meeting needs to happen to clarify the role/need for councils within NOAA at the local and larger level. Ms. Desrosiers will provide as much information prior to the meeting, including charters for 19 bargaining units and the 4 functioning councils. There was some frustration expressed over the amount of time devoted to this topic in Forum meetings and the lack of data points (such as number of bargaining units and councils) presented. This in turn brought up the point of how the Forum spends time on information exchanges, and that there should be evaluation as to what should be expressed in person, and what should be shared through other avenues. 

Lastly, the Acting Labor Co-Chair mentioned the importance of reminding the Secretary of the Forum’s efforts noting that the Secretary’s support would reaffirm the Department’s commitment to the President’s initiative for labor/management relationships. The Acting Labor Co-Chair suggested drafting something with Mr. Mahoney. Ms. Herbst stated she would have a conversation with the Deputy Secretary on the matter. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Schedule meeting with NOAA Office of Ellen Herbst May 2015
Send out information on current bargaining units/councils Renee Desrosiers ASAP
Speak with the Deputy Secretary on having the Secretary show support for the LMF Ellen Herbst TBD

Agenda item: Equity Working Group
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith

There has been no demand for a response to OPM on pay equity. However, The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) believed it should be looked at and available data should be collected. Ms. Schwede asked if a labor economist could be invited to the group, and the group responded that any support is appreciated.

Agenda item: Phased Retirement
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith, Ms. Laurie Schwede


Ms. Smith noted that the working group has been very successful and has been meeting every week since February. The group has been working on a proposed draft to the phased retirement policy, which has not been vetted by anyone outside of the group yet. The policy currently excludes USPTO based on information received from their HR Director, but does not exclude any other positions specifically except those excluded by regulations (NOAA Corps, Law Enforcement Officers, Fire Fighters). A phased retiree positon cannot be backfilled, unless part-time as the retiree will still be encumbering the position; however, the retiree can technically move over to another positon if there is one available, and then begin phased retirement while the original positon is backfilled. Benefits and leave will be based on the part-time schedule the retiree will be working. Currently, the group is working on a timeline of how long someone can be on phased retirement. As of now, the group proses up to four years with extensions in one year increments. At the end of this time period, the person is considered to be voluntarily retiring, but may request to go back to a full time schedule, with approval from the agency. If the employee changes their mind about retiring, and it is not approved, it is not grievable; however, the group noted that the appeal process is a good point to address. The employee has the right to retire at any time and is not bound to stay in partial retirement for the entire time approved. 

The next steps for the group are to come up with a communication/education plan where everyone will be receiving the same information so that everyone understands the process and the options. The Forum was reminded that the employee must be eligible to retire for consideration. Ms. Smith, Ms. Schwede, and the entire phased retirement group were praised for doing a tremendous job, which is hoped will be representative of how future working groups operate. The working group proved to be an example of a best practice of how groups should work within the Forum, demonstrating the effectiveness of time spent outside the Forum working, instead of using meeting time to work out all of the details. AFGE was also excited to hear about the level of cooperation with the working group. 

The National Finance Center (NFC) was supposed to be ready in March, and Ms. Smith will confirm their current status. It is known that some partial retirees are waiting to be processed at another agency. The initial draft will be finished the week of April 22nd, and will be reviewed one last time by the group; it will then go out for vetting in the beginning of May. Mr. Friedman will provide a copy, and has encouraged other to provide any copies, of language on this topic he comes across.

Action items  Person responsible Deadline
Address appeal process Working Group TBD
Follow up on NFC’s readiness Ms. Valerie Smith TBD
Share language on phased retirement Mr. Friedman/Forum TBD

Agenda item: Pre-decisional Involvement
Presenter: Mr. Howard Friedman


A member noted that they would like the Secretary to be notified of pre-decisional involvement (PDI) when the discussion about the Forum occurs. Management stated that people had different views on what PDI is, so it may be beneficial for all to have further discussion and concrete examples of what it is. A member noted that they felt it was common for management to not know what PDI is, but that according the charter, unions are to have PDI in all workplace matters. They noted it is commonly misperceived that agencies believe it’s up to them to engage in PDI; however, unions are entitled to talk about anything they want, whenever they want, with anyone they want. Management’s responsibility is to listen and consider the issue. It was then brought up that this assumes that labor is aware of all management issues being discussed. It was asked of the Forum what PDI means to them. It was noted by a member that bringing labor in with management and building upwards from the beginning of issues may make involvement more productive and inclusive. Management asked how to engrain this involvement in the DNA of the culture. 

One suggestion was identifying the leaders who want to sit at the table in the beginning of a process, in order to incorporate a more collaborative method. It was advised that is important for management culture to understand that labor can be part of the problem solving team. It was also suggested that choosing a mutually interesting topic on which to collaborate may be a way to build trust and make all parties more eager to share data. Another idea was to incorporate representatives who may be the user of a policy or tool, and to work along with management and with labor relations, while work is being done, to ensure all parties are on the same page. A member also stated that continuing relations with labor and management to make improvements on programs that are already deemed important is a way to engrain a business model. Trust was emphasized many times throughout this discussion, and lessons learned from the telework working group have been utilized in the phased retirement working group. 

Management pointed out that getting the people who do the work to get their ideas escalated to a point of making sensible decisions about how to solve problems feeds into employee engagement and how to get the Department to be #1. A member noted that it has to be a fundamental decision by management to understand it’s going to be “worth it” and will result in a better solution to have more involvement in programs. An example of getting the right people in the room at the right time was shared as EDA was working on a project that got adopted. It was never viewed as PDI; just “looking to solve a problem,” which was suggested could be a part of the definition of PDI. Having the right personalities and decision makers working together was also highlighted. 

A member noted that NOAA may think and feel the same thing but are talking above each other rather than to each other and that this should be discussed in the meeting to occur with Ms. Herbst and Mr. Mahoney. 

Ms. Herbst asked everyone to think of topics and areas that are appropriate for the Forum to continue/start working on. There was a request to resend the savings data on travel. Ms. Herbst also volunteered to update the Forum on the budget next meeting.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Address PDI in NOAA Meeting NOAA Meeting Group May 2015
Share topics/areas appropriate for Forum to work on All July 15, 2015
Travel savings shared again Frank Milman TBD
Update the Forum on budget Ellen Herbst July 15, 2015

Agenda item: Employee engagement and improving labor relations at some of the bureaus
Presenter: Mr. Howard Friedman

Mr. Friedman noted that groups need to get together, drill down, and be ready and available to discuss topics.

Agenda item: Shared Services
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Management stated that this is going to be a big enough initiative that it will impact everyone in how the Department will deliver better service. Ms. Herbst came to an understanding that more should be shared about the timeline and it would be ideal to have a conversation on the concept of operation. A member was concerned that there was going to be an implementation plan by May; however, Ms. Herbst shared that she owes the Forum an update. There will be no implantation plan by May, hopefully there will be some final input from the Department Management Council (DMC) on areas of teams and approaches; the process piece will begin after this. The goal of the initiative is to answer the challenge by leadership to serve better services (HR, acquisitions, IT, financial management), how to “do what we do better.” We are currently in the first phase (since October), which is data gathering and analysis. Teams and a contractor have been gathering information trying to evaluate and analyze data, and present cases for change. Ms. Herbst stated that the Forum would be a great group to be involved in the next phase (1st is the what, 2nd is the how). 

A member asserted that labor hears shared services and thinks centralization and elimination. Ms. Herbst shared that many people have had that same assumption which is a consequence of a lack of information, and that she owes the Forum more information; the DMC had the same concerns that labor has. She emphasized that this is not aimed at cost cutting, but aimed at improving services. A member suggested a working group on this with concrete items due each meeting, and it was agreed by the Forum to have a standing committee on the topic to provide more clarity. Further, Ms. Herbst proposed to offer an informational briefing before the next quarterly meeting of the Forum so that information can be digested and that there can be a more informed conversation moving forward. It was suggested this meeting take place the same week as the NOAA meeting with Ms. Herbst and Mr. Mahoney. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Shared service informational briefing All/Ellen Herbst May 2015

Agenda item: Other Business

No other business.