10/7/11: The SEC’s Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) recently issued this report in which it explored how well the SEC has implemented alternative work schedule and telework programs at the agency. The OIG’s conclusions lend further support to the Union’s positions on these important work-life programs in the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Surprisingly, the SEC responded to several of the OIG’s recommendations by stating that it was working to expand and improve both AWS and telework programs – when in fact the SEC is working hard to do precisely the opposite in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with the Union.
Improving the Telework Program
In its report, the OIG noted that “OHR has not promoted or publicized the SEC telework program and related policy as effectively as possible and has not made comprehensive telework training available to all SEC employees. Improvements in these areas could increase participation and enhance acceptance of telework among SEC staff and managers.” The Union agrees with these conclusions.
The OIG’s survey of SEC employees concluded that SEC employees do not request telework because they have heard that it is not acceptable to managers, that teleworkers are subject to management reprisal, and that teleworkers might be subject to more stringent work requirements. The OIG’s survey also found, however, that 75% of employees stated that other employees’ telework participation had “no effect” on them or their work. These survey results are consistent with prior surveys of SEC staff on telework issues.
In its report, the OIG made a number of recommendations to bolster the telework program at the SEC, including Recommendation 20: “The Office of Human Resources should develop goals and objectives for accomplishing the work listed in the telework program work plan for fiscal year 2011 and for increasing telework participation by Securities and Exchange Commission employees.”
The Union was surprised, however, to learn from the OIG report that the SEC’s Office of Human Resources (OHR) "concurred" in the OIG’s recommendations. In fact, for many months OHR has been actively pursuing efforts to reduce the telework program at the SEC during the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations process. As the Union has been reporting all summer, the SEC is proposing the elimination of the Expanded Telework Program, as well as substantial changes to the regular telework program that will make it easier for managers to deny telework requests as well as to remove employees from the program.
Expanding Alternative Work Schedules
With respect to alternative work schedules, the OIG observed that “some federal agencies are allowing their employees more flexibility with respect to their arrival and departure times and the length of workdays in the workweek or pay period by implementing work schedule options such as a gliding schedule, variable day schedule, or variable week schedule.” The OIG went on to state that, “due to the benefits that alternative work schedule options provide to employees, the SEC might benefit from making additional flexible work schedule options available to its employees.”
The OIG concluded in Recommendation 6: “OHR, in developing the new Human Capital Directive, should work with NTEU to determine whether additional alternative work schedules, such as the gliding, variable day, variable week, three-day workweek, and Maxiflex options described in OPM’s Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules, should be adopted as options for SEC employees.”
The Union agrees with this recommendation and, in fact, NTEU has pursued precisely these AWS alternatives during the current CBA negotiations. The SEC, however, has resolutely opposed any further expansion of these AWS policies.
For that reason, the Union was perplexed by OHR’s response to Recommendation 6: “OHR concurs. OHR, in collaboration with NTEU and CBA negotiations, will determine whether additional alternative work schedules as outlined in this report should be adopted as options for the Securities and Exchange Commission.” As with OHR’s response to the OIG’s telework recommendation, this response is completely at odds with OHR’s actions at the bargaining table.
The Union will be providing information to the OIG about the SEC’s actual positions on both telework and alternative work schedules, and it will continue its work to support and strengthen both telework and AWS at the SEC.