USIA Labor Relations


Agency: United States Information Agency

Title: Labor Relations at USIA

Background Information

USIA hasn't a success story to tell - yet. But, ours is a story that goes well beyond signed partnership agreements to the real substance of Agency operation and our mission to represent American policy and society to foreign publics. The process hasn't been easy and is far from complete, but our partnership is being forged in the fire of the actual restructuring and downsizing.

Last summer, the Director of USIA faced two challenges: how to conduct public diplomacy in the post- Cold War world and how to deal with the latest in a series of deep budget cuts. The solutions were found in a dramatic restructuring of the support systems for our operations. The Agency is (1)eliminating products, which, however good, are insupportable by reduced funding, (2) taking greater advantage of modern communications technology, and (3) ensuring that our new structures comply with the President's reinvention Executive Orders and guidelines.

The issuance of the Executive Order on labor-management partnership found USIA well into this radical reorganization. Nonetheless, both Unions were invited to join and co-chaired all of the teams developing recommendations on restructuring. At the same time, USIA and Union leadership worked out and signed a resolution committing both to the partnership process.

Inevitably, the Director accepted some, but not all, of the recommendations that came from the restructuring teams. Inevitably, again, the issues was raised about the Director's obligation to share decision-making. Both sides have been wary and exasperated in turns--complaints have been aired in the press, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was brought in--but both sides have remained committed to the dialogue.

Next, an agreement on an operating charter for a USIA Joint Partnership Council (JPC) was signed after long negotiations and the JPC has begun weekly meetings, simultaneously addressing procedures and issues. Through this partnership process, buy-out criteria were established, a team on expanded training initiatives is operating, and teams named to take action on the Director's "Just Work Place" task force report. The agenda expands faster than the JPC can deal with everything, and partnership is still being defined even while it is addressing really tough issues. We're not clear yet on the impact of the Council's recommendations on the last level of decision making. But, we believe that all of USIA's employees-- labor and management--are doing pioneering work in partnership. While neither side is fully satisfied at this point, we are proud of the start we have made together.

Main NPR Category: Employee Empowerment

Contact Person: Rob Nevitt

Contact Phone: (202) 260-6058

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