NTEU Supports Federal Sector Telework


6/13/07: NTEU President Colleen Kelley offered her view of telework in the federal sector in the wake of a hearing yesterday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia assessing telework policies and initiatives among government agencies. The subcommittee is examining NTEU-supported bipartisan legislation — S. 1000, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, introduced by Senators Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — which would require over the next year that executive branch agencies establish a policy under which their employees, with certain exceptions, would be eligible to participate in a telework program. The legislation also would establish a system for evaluating agency telework efforts.

President Kelley noted that the best way to achieve a productive telework program at virtually any federal agency is through labor-management cooperation, pointing to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) program as a prime example. “Working with employees,” said President Kelley, “PTO was able to put in place the telework program that is most often held up as the model for other federal agencies.” Such cooperation, she said, “generates the kind of employee and management support that is the foundation of a successful program.” Kelley has long advocated expanded telework opportunities throughout the federal government.

She also noted that some 54 percent of the trademark examining corps, along with other trademark professionals, take advantage of the telework opportunities under the negotiated NTEU-PTO program. This model program “was championed by NTEU Chapter 245,” Kelley said. The chapter represents trademark employees and has been a strong and vocal advocate of expanding telework opportunities for bargaining unit members. The successful program was expanded after its initial, successful implementation.

In addition to citing the successful PTO agreement, Kelley said NTEU has been able to negotiate positive telework programs at several federal agencies. At the same time, she noted that management resistance continues to be the main barrier to increased telework opportunities throughout the federal sector, despite legislative efforts led by Rep.
Frank Wolf (R-Va.) to push agencies either to establish or better implement telework programs.

Repeated studies have shown the benefits of teleworking at least two days a week, including increased productivity and employee morale, reduced traffic congestion and lower commuting costs—a particularly important benefit in the face of sustained high gas prices.