TSA Among Lowest-Ranked Federal Workplaces; Collective Bargaining Key to Improvement, Kelley Says

Press Release September 1, 2010

Washington, D.C. — The lack of a meaningful voice in the workplace accounts for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) ranking near the bottom of the list of the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, the leader of the largest independent union of federal workers said today.

TSA finished 220th out of 224 agency or department subcomponents where employees were surveyed. TSA dropped from a ranking of 213 the previous year.

“With low morale, low pay and continuing workplace problems, the results at TSA come as no surprise,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). “TSA officers need collective bargaining rights to ensure fair and credible pay and performance systems, and to give them a clear voice in how to improve the workplace.”

NTEU is pressing both the Administration and Congress to grant TSA employees collective bargaining rights that would give them a seat at the table in finding viable solutions to problems with pay, fair treatment, recertification and testing, health and safety issues and worklife balance.

TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Among 32 large federal government agencies, DHS finished 28th, which was the same ranking it received in 2009. In 2007, the department finished 29th.

Within DHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where NTEU represents the entire-24,000 employee bargaining unit, saw some improvements moving from 178 to 146 among agency subcomponents. Morale continues to be a problem at CBP, where many deserving CBP trade and security positions remain in need of career ladder upgrades and employees would like more of a voice in workplace matters, Kelley said.

However, Kelley said, NTEU believes the labor-management forums outlined in a December 2009 Executive Order by President Obama will foster more cooperative relationships across the federal government and empower employees to improve their workplaces and identify better methods to provide vital services to the public.

“Both DHS and CBP forums have been launched successfully and I am both determined and confident that with these efforts we can begin to make changes to improve the work environment and continue to ensure the success of the department. The tone set and work done to date by both management and labor at the DHS and CBP forums will help to drive the positive changes needed for employees at DHS and CBP,” President Kelley said.

The effective implementation of labor-management forums can lead to improvements across government, Kelley said.

“Both inside and outside of the federal government, it is known that well-designed labor-management collaboration works,” Kelley said. “It is in the interest of all parties that agencies take advantage of the expertise of frontline employees and put that knowledge to better use.”

NTEU is also hopeful labor-management collaboration can turn around the declining performance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has fallen in the workplace rankings from third in 2008 to 11th in 2009 to 24th in 2010. In the wake of the recent economic crisis, the workplace survey reveals SEC employees feel they lack the resources to keep up with the increasing demands placed upon them. As such, NTEU continues to lobby Congress to provide the SEC with the resources needed to fulfill its mission, while pushing SEC management to increase employee-management collaboration.

“We recently held our first labor-management forum meeting and have presented SEC leadership with a plan,” Kelley said. “The elements of that plan—including greater transparency in decision-making and a more open dialogue—will impact the employees’ perceptions of the SEC in positive ways.”

An example of utilizing employee input can be found at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which earned the top spot in the Partnership for Public Service’s survey for the third straight time.

The commission’s consistently good performances can be traced to NTEU successfully negotiating workplace rights and benefits that address working conditions and work-life balance issues, such as alternative work schedules, flexiplace and student loan repayments.

NTEU’s workplace improvements contributed to good results for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which ranked third among large agencies, and the Department of Treasury, which moved up from 17th to 12th. Within the subcomponents of Treasury, NTEU’s efforts to increase collaboration helped the Internal Revenue Service’s rankings improve from 127th last year to 79th in 2010.

“These improvements are evidence of what can happen when frontline employees are given a greater voice and are allowed to drive positive change,” Kelley said.

As the largest independent federal union, NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.