- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

The decision of a federal judge to block implementation of a new human-resources system at the Department of Homeland Security could hamstring efforts to reform personnel regulations at the Pentagon and other government departments.

On Friday, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court in Washington blocked implementation of rules governing employee-management relations at the new department, which with 180,000 employees is the second-largest agency of the federal government behind the Pentagon.

Five labor unions representing 60,000 of the department’s employees sued to stop the rules from being implemented after they were published Feb. 1.

Judge Collyer ruled: “The new human-resources system has failed at one of its basic requirements: it does not ensure collective bargaining rights” for the department’s employees, which Congress specifically required it should.

“This ruling is a clear message to the administration,” said Charles Showalter, president of the National Homeland Security Council, part of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the five unions bringing the case. “They must deal with the unions and they must respect collective bargaining.”

The issue of labor relations for the department was perhaps the most hotly debated aspect of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Congress eventually gave wide latitude to the department to develop a personnel system free from rigid civil service rules.

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