Thursday, December 13, 2007

Congress Puts NSPS to Rest

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is long gone and now Congress is giving the boot to a big part of his National Security Personnel System (NSPS), too. After years of court battles, legislative fights and a nationwide grassroots campaign by defense workers and their unions, the final 2008 Defense Authorization Conference Report contains language that will restore collective bargaining rights that NSPS took away and return the right to appeal major disciplinary action to the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent agency.

The new rules exclude blue collar workers from NSPS and exempt employees at Defense laboratories through 2011. Conferees also restricted the DoD’s ability to implement the pay for performance system by guaranteeing at least 60 percent of the annual pay raise granted by Congress and protecting locality pay for employees performing at satisfactory levels and above.

NSPS would have radically altered pay and working conditions for more than 700,000 civilian defense workers. Unions won several court cases that affirmed NSPS went far beyond its original intent, but the Bush Administration had the rulings overturned in federal Appeals Court.

The battle then shifted to Congress. After the Democratic victory in 2006, the House and Senate passed legislation to correct many of the NSPS’ faults. The final push was a joint House and Senate Conference committee that negotiated the final language of the Defense Authorization bill.

“This was a long fight, but we prevailed on many of the issues that made NSPS a bad idea for federal workers at the Department of Defense,” said IAM Government Employees Director Frank Carelli. “We couldn’t have done it without the tremendous effort by federal workers, our allies in Congress and the broad coalition of federal sector unions working together.”

Rail Unions Present Case to Amtrak PEB

The second day of Amtrak Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) hearings began with the carrier resuming its presentation to the Board. Amtrak’s Chief Operating Officer, William Crosbie, continued the carrier’s plea of poverty as a reason for rejecting the Union Coalition’s reasonable arguments for retroactive pay and job security. The Coalition includes the Machinists Union, Transportation Communications Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Transport Workers Union.

Following the conclusion of Amtrak’s presentation it was the Unions’ turn to make their case before the Board with a detailed contractual and financial presentation. General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr., District 19 President and Directing General Chairman Joe Duncan and District 19 General Chairman Mike Hill were present at the proceedings.

“Amtrak management found the money to award themselves pay increases over the last eight years while union workers were left out in the cold,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “Even during this season of giving, Amtrak’s greed is growing.”

“Under Amtrak’s concept of bargaining, it lays out demands, never waivers, and the employees are to be punished for any delay by the unions in capitulating to those demands by forfeiting back pay,” said TCU-IAM International Vice President Joel Parker. “Amtrak’s position is at odds with the historical norm in rail bargaining.”

The unions will continue presenting their case on Thursday, December 13th, the final day of hearings, followed by closing arguments. The members of Presidential Emergency Board 242 are Helen M. Witt, Ira F. Jaffe, Joshua M. Javits, Annette Sandberg and Peter W. Tredick. The Board will submit settlement recommendations to President George W. Bush.

Airport Screeners Make Big Gains in Canada

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for the more than 1,000 members of Local Lodge 16 in Richmond, British Columbia, who provide pre-board screening services at airports in British Columbia.

The 744 members employed by Aeroguard Security at Vancouver International Airport have ratified a new collective agreement that will provide them with wage and benefit improvements totaling 38 percent over the next four years. Additionally, 272 members employed by Garda Security at nine airports on Vancouver Island and on the mainland of the province ratified a new five-year agreement that also provides substantial wage and benefit improvements.

“For the first time these members will be receiving a pension plan and have their BC medical premiums paid,” explained GLR Ron Fontaine. Other agreement highlights include an additional statutory holiday, increased health and welfare plan contributions, additional sick days and a paid half hour lunch period.

“These members who provide the security for the traveling public in Canada can now have a career, and not just a job,” said Fontaine. 
The key ingredient in the success of the two contracts was the exchange of information and strategies between the two bargaining committees. “I want to thank both committees for the time and effort they put into achieving these agreements,” said Fontaine. “Mike Ambler did a terrific job with our Garda members, and the future for pre-board screeners and security in general will benefit from that.”

California District 190 Salutes Retirees

District 190 DBR Jim Beno hosted a special Retirement/Holiday dinner on December 8 in Oakland, California, to pay tribute to an octet of recently retired IAM representatives. Over 150 members and their families attended the event, which honored past Area Directors Vern Dutton and Glenn Gandolfo; Business Representatives Craig Andrews, David Asplin, Mike Cook, Manny Francis, John Moran and Bob Miller.

“It was a privilege to attend this event, honoring such an outstanding group of individuals,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “They served the membership of District 190 well over the years and their leadership deserves to be acknowledged and commended. I wish each and every one of them a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

NAFTA Accountability Bill Draws Bipartisan Support

Long-time labor ally Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives this week that would require the United States to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if new negotiations do not produce specific, concrete improvements.

“For nearly fourteen years, NAFTA has reneged on its promises, bringing even more poverty and job loss to communities across the continent,” said Kaptur. “I join my colleagues from Maine to California in demanding a new, equitable model for free trade among free peoples.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement Accountability Act, H.R. 4329, drew support from Democrats and Republicans.

“Since its enactment, NAFTA has failed to deliver the economic success that it initially promised,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). “Our growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, and the continued loss of American jobs provide enough evidence to indicate that NAFTA just isn’t working. It is time that we accept this reality and begin renegotiating this trade agreement to better and more fairly serve America’s interests.”

The bill would require the Executive Branch to certify that certain benchmarks have been met, including gains in U.S. jobs and living standards, increased U.S. domestic manufacturing, stronger health and environmental standards. The bill also sets benchmarks regarding food imports, decreased flow of illegal drugs from Mexico and Canada, and the guarantee of Mexican democracy and human freedoms.

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