ArchiveOffice Personnel Management News Release
CONTACT: Mary Ann Maloney
September 11, 1996 (3 p.m.)
The honorees (see below), who received their awards at the Administration's National Partnership Council ceremony, are part of labor-management teams at federal agencies who worked together to improve the delivery of customer service. Over the past year, they have transformed the way services are delivered by streamlining programs, empowering front line employees and cutting costs.
"This year's winners exemplify what can be accomplished when unions and management work together to make government work more effectively for the people," said Vice President Al Gore. "They serve as the model for change."
The honorees were:
Jim King, OPM Director and Chairman of the National Partnership Council said, "The savings the American people are seeing today could not have been made without the dedicated work of many who take pride in being public service employees. Through labor-management partnerships, we are reaching new heights."
In two years, the partnership at the Philadelphia Mint has produced $1 million in cost savings through manufacturing enhancements, employee ideas cutting operating expenses by more than $100,000 yearly, a 65% reduction in the filing of formal grievances, and an accelerated decline in workers compensation outlays.
The most dramatic improvement involved extending the longevity of dies used to produce pennies. In fiscal 1994, before partnership took hold at the facility, dies needed replacement after producing about 700,000 pennies. After die longevity was identified as a goal, teams experimented with ways to differentiate dies and with using two hubs instead of one in minting pennies. This resulted in an increase in die longevity from 700,000 to more than 1.2 million impressions, resulting in the use of 20,000 fewer dies yearly and a saving of nearly $1 million per year.
The engineering department's proposal to replace outdated lighting fixtures, which has earned the Philadelphia Mint a grant from the Federal Energy Efficiency Fund, will save $30,000 yearly. And partnership initiatives have stimulated employee suggestions that will yield more than $95,000 in operating savings.
The spirit of partnership has also created improvements in customer service. At the beginning of the Partnership Accord, the internal customer service standard called for 100% of orders to be shipped within three days of receiving labels. With partnership in place, the customer service team now ships 95% of coin orders in two days and shipped in one day 100% of orders for the largest commemorative coin program in Mint history supporting the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics.
Partnership has produced new ways of jointly resolving problems, resulting in a reduction in formal grievances from 28 filed in FY93 to a projected 10 in FY96.
And worker-management cooperative efforts have reduced claims for workers compensation from $520,000 in FY93 to an estimated $480,000 in FY96. These improvements came about by inaugurating a program of identifying work hazards, reviewing lost-time injuries for ways to prevent similar future injuries, and finding other jobs for workers whose injuries keep them from performing assigned duties by, e.g., reengineering position descriptions with the help of rehabilitation specialists at the Department of Labor.
The Department of Education (ED) partnership has transformed an adversarial labor-management relationship into one which is collaborative, and in which the agency and the union are committed to ED's becoming a high performing customer-focused organization. ED's partnership has produced many successes that have moved it closer to its goals than would have been possible with an adversarial collective bargaining relationship.
A new department-wide multi-input performance appraisal system is one of the partnership's proudest accomplishments. The system uses an automated means of collecting and providing "360 degree" performance feedback to the rater and employee from customers, coworkers, and subordinates to be used in assigning a pass/fail rating. This reinvention effort, in which the union has been a participating partner, will apply to almost all department employees, GS-15 and below, and has the potential for great positive change in the culture of performance appraisal.
A department-chartered team that includes a union representative has designed a system that simplifies and decentralizes the grants process. The new process reduces the number of steps from 487 to 221, and it is anticipated that beginning in FY97, application forms and instructions will be simpler and will result in shorter applications for grants. Indeed, the time to process grant applications has already been reduced 25%.
Partnership has played an important role in planning and implementing customer service improvements and increasing productivity. For example, the Office for Civil Rights will establish a Washington Field Office, to be staffed with headquarters employees previously performing administrative and program overhead duties, in order to increase resources directly devoted to civil rights enforcement, including the handling of complaints. The Debt Collection Service has reduced busy signals on its toll-free lines from over 400,000 in January 1994 to where 25 unanswered calls is now considered a "bad day." The Service has also increased collections from $174 to $862 million in the period FY93 to FYY96, with dollars collected by each employee increasing from $734,000 to $3.64 million.
There has been a dramatic decrease in the use of formal labor relations dispute resolution procedures. In the three years before Executive Order 12871, unfair labor practice charges (ULPCs) averaged 16 per year. In FY94 there were only 2 ULPCs and none in FY95. Although 8 ULPCs have been filed in FY96, 5 have been by a single individual, and of the 3 filed by the union, all had been settled. Negotiations are carried out in a more cooperative, joint problem-solving manner, with the result that, apart from FMCS facilitation of negotiations in two situations, no negotiation issues have been referred to third parties since the partnership was established.
The Fire Department-FUF partnership at the Picatinny Arsenal has resulted in many instances of cost savings or avoidance. For example, by adopting the union's recommendation to use current firefighters who are certified instructors, rather than outside contractors, to conduct certain types of required training, annual training for necessary state certification can be accomplished at a savings of $80 per person. Instead of sending out firefighting gear to be washed at least two times a year, at a cost of $60 per outfit, the union recommended purchase of an industrial-type washing machine costing $2200 so that the gear can be cleaned on site. With 24 firefighters, the machine will pay for itself in two years.
In partnering the proposed 1997 budget for the Fire Department, union members were asked for the first time for recommendations on equipment purchases. The firefighters, as the users of the equipment, recommended a different type of turn-out gear that met the standards but cost significantly less: savings on three sets of gear is approximately $1000.
The firefighters agreed to take on a self-help project to update and remodel the Fire House kitchen, with potential savings of $15,000. The Department is actively considering a suggestion of Firefighter Jenkins, a FUF shop steward, to enter into an arrangement with Rockaway Township under which the Township would build a new fire station and Picatinny would man and equip it. If consummated, such an arrangement would provide cost avoidance of about $300,000 for the construction of a much needed firehouse expansion on Picatinny.
In the area of customer service, the Fire Department has entered into a new mutual aid agreement with community fire departments that has resulted in significant changes, such as a hazardous materials clean-up commitment and an equipment replacement agreement that now requires the benefiting community fire department to replenish Department supplies used in support of off-arsenal emergencies.
The commitment to partnering has resulted in a decline in formal grievances--from 50 over a four-month period in 1994 to 40 in a four-month period in 1996.
As an example of joint problem-solving, management offered the President of FUF the opportunity to partner the selection of a new Fire Chief. The management selecting official and the President of FUF independently rated the candidates against SKAP criteria, found that two of the candidates were tied, and after a couple of days contemplating what candidate qualification would break the tie, a decision was partnered and the current Fire Chief selected. Union involvement in the selection process assured FUF of the fairness and impartiality of the selection process, with the result that there were no grievances over the selection or the selection process.
Because of partnership, there has been greater information-sharing and employee involvement in the agency's decision-making processes. This helps employees understand the mission, goals, and objectives of the agency, and fosters employee support for organizational decisions.
Labor-management relations in the North Texas District (NTD) of the Internal Revenue Service reached an all-time low in 1993 when, with a bargaining unit of 1893 employees, 132 grievances and 20 unfair labor practices (ULPs) were filed. The cost of these actions was 14,376 staff hours or $308,187, as well as reduced productivity, employee morale, and job satisfaction. The last set of negotiations, using positional bargaining techniques, took four weeks to reach agreement.
On July 14, 1994, NTD and NTEU Chapter 46 signed a Total Quality Partnership agreement which encouraged greater participation by NTEU in human resources and operational planning. As a result of increased partnering, grievances in 1995 were reduced to 123 and no ULPs were filed. This saved the District 3,363 staff hours or $57,000. Using interest-based bargaining techniques, it took only three days for the negotiating team to reach agreement.
NTEU and the District have also used the partnership to improve work processes and increase productivity. Joint team efforts have resulted in the following:
--The Technical Resources Process Analysis Team implemented improvements changing the way revenue agents research their audits, resulting in net savings of $228,000 for FY96.
--The Exempt Organization Technical Screening Process Team increased the number of cases being screened, resulting in a higher closure rate, reduced time on cases, and a cost savings of $24,000 annually.
--The Bankruptcy Payment Processing Team developed a tracking method which shows exactly where payments are and how long they stay at each step of processing. Payments are now processed in half the time previously required, resulting in an annual savings of $182,592.
--The CID Records and Control Team implemented recommendations streamlining report processing, resulting in the elimination of a position, reduction of paperwork, and a cost savings of $37,000.
As a result of partnering, management includes NTEU in information sharing and timely, relevant and correct information is delivered throughout the organization. Joint workgroups at all levels meet monthly to discuss all pertinent information and resolve process delivery, quality of worklife, empowerment, and labor-management relationship issues. Open, honest communication between management, NTEU, and employees is standard throughout the office.
Management and the union, working together, have redesigned the process of receiving, stowing, selecting, packaging and shipping customer orders at DDWG. Before this reinvention effort, it took 967 people and a budget exceeding $46 million to fill customer orders in 6 days (a 2-day average for high-priority requests and a 6-day average for routine orders). With 721 people and a budget of $40 million, the DDWG is now able to ship all customer orders in less than one day (with high-priority orders taking 33 days, on-base routine requirements .38 days, and off-base routine orders .81 days).
Another partnership initiative involved decentralizing the receiving, packing and shipping functions to ensure they are located in the most efficient areas. The Transportation and Shipping Division developed new selection criteria for small parcel carriers in order to improve the quality, speed and reliability of customer support. Referred to as Best Value Small Package Carrier, this program was recognized by higher authority as a benchmark for other depots and has saved $80,000 and improved customer support.
The DDWG's Labor-Management Committee was closely involved in educating the workforce regarding the impact of a reorganization and a change in missions. This educational effort greatly decreased the negative effect of the resulting RIF and minimized the adverse impact on processing times.
Labor and management have worked closely together in developing recognition programs that promote unit cohesiveness, improve employee morale, and encourage excellence in providing customer support.
Additional partnership achievements include:
-- negotiation of shift schedules resulting in 24-hour coverage in the major processing areas;
-- negotiation of the depot's staffing plan, and determining the numbers and grades of employees;
-- successful implementation of self-directed work teams throughout the depot, with training provided by both management and union personnel;
-- formation of a joint dispute resolution committee serving as an alternative to the formal grievance process; and
--resolution of all unfair labor practices without third-party intervention.1996 National Partnership Award Honorable Mention Citation
The Arsenal is a participant in the Army's Contractor Performance Certification Program (CP2), under which suppliers with the very best business practices and product quality achievements are recognized. Recipients of the CP2 pennant are considered to require less oversight from contract management offices, and may be allowed to perform certain functions in-house that were previously performed by the customer. The Arsenal first achieved CP2 certification of its manufacturing area in August 1993. Since then additional requirements have been added to the CP2 recertification. The importance of recertification to the Arsenal's competitive position was publicized to the entire workforce, emphasized at labor-management meetings, and its details printed in union newsletters. As a result of the joint efforts of management and labor, and the participation of every employee in the Arsenal's manufacturing center, recertification was achieved in February 1996.
Union Council members are included in the marketing and negotiating teams that solicit new workloads for the Arsenal. Teams with union participation have already been successful in obtaining workload increases.
The Arsenal participates in a Value Engineering Program which is promoted by higher command. Efforts of management and union members have resulted in savings or cost avoidance of $2,265,000 in FY94, $3,581,000 in FY95, and $1,007,000 for the first six months of FY96.
Six months after adoption on a trial basis of a compressed work schedule has resulted in a reduction of 3.2 hours of sick leave per individual, equating to a cost savings of $114,972.
A new procedure for reports and follow up on workman's compensation cases was developed by a joint effort of union and management, with cost savings of $900,518 for FY93, $4,135,362 for FY94, $1,892,164 for FY95, and $2,438,163 for FY96 (Oct-Mar).
Union participation was invaluable in implementing the Arsenal's smoking policy. The agreement reached included offering smoking cessation classes on administrative time to encourage individuals to quit. Also, smoking patches were purchased by the installation on a one-time basis. And a smoking area outside was created outside for those individuals choosing not to quit.
Employee grievances have traditionally been a major source of conflict between parties. The Arsenal's partnership efforts have reduced grievances and ULPs: in FY93 there were 112 grievances and 14 ULPs; in FY94 this dropped to 96 and 11; and in FY95 it dropped even more sharply to 35 and 5.
The Partnership Council created a process whereby new office space is jointly designed and developed. Using this new process, the Region has not had a single delay in relocating any office as a result of unresolved union and management space negotiations with an estimated saving of $25,000 in negotiation costs over the last year. In addition to avoiding the costs associated with protracted bargaining, the Region has safer and better designed offices which reflect the ideas and input of the staff working in those offices as well as improved morale.
Using interest-based bargaining (IBB) techniques, the Region and the union were able to develop a joint process for expansion of the Teleservice Center. Part of the process calls for joint union/ management screening and interviewing of candidates. The Region expects that it will be hiring better candidates which will result in less staff turnover.
The Regional Partnership Council adopted a training strategy to introduce IBB to all union representatives and managers. The training is jointly taught by a manager and union representative. Since the introduction of the IBB process in Region III, the parties have been able to reach agreement in each bargaining session without the involvement of a mediator.
Recently, the Agency and the Union agreed to replace the old five tier appraisal system with a pass/fail system. A union-management workgroup assembled by the Regional Partnership Council was tasked with developing joint training for all managers and union representatives on the new system. The final product, two videotapes written and produced jointly, is being shown to all employees.
In implementing the new National Contract article on employee awards, the Regional Partnership Council established an awards workgroup. As a result of the Partnership Council workgroup, the Region has implemented a process which requires that employees be directly involved on award panels with managers, make recommendations on awards, and determine the award criteria and amounts.
The greatest accomplishment of the Regional Partnership Council has been the successful transformation of its union-management culture. Only a few years ago, the Region was entangled in frequent litigation and involvement with third parties. Its culture encouraged litigation rather than joint problem-solving. It was not uncommon for the Region to have 8 to 10 arbitration hearings a year at an estimated cost of $40,000. In the past year, the Region had only two hearings and no unfair labor practice charges went unresolved. The savings in this area alone is at least $30,000. Moreover, since the adoption of IBB techniques, the Region has not had any need for involvement by either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the Federal Service Impasses Panel.