Tight Budgets to Test Labor-Management Partnerships

December 20, 2011

The first wide-scale test of labor-management partnerships' effectiveness could come in the new year as agency managers and labor leaders learn to operate in an austere budget environment.

With most agencies facing budget cuts in 2012, agencies could use the partnership forums to find ways to operate more effectively, said Bill Dougan, national president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. Dougan said labor leaders can help managers figure out more effective ways to get work done or new technologies that could make their jobs easier.

"Given the reality of the budget situation we're in, the handwriting's on the wall," Dougan said. "I think we've built a pretty solid foundation with these partnerships over the last few years. Now that we've developed solid relationships, we're at the point now where we can sit down, roll up our sleeves and work with management in a collaborative, cooperative manner to make the changes that need to be made."

Dougan expects many discussions about how to make offices run more efficiently to take place at local partnerships scattered across the country.

"Obviously, these forums are not a panacea, but they're an important tool to engage each other in meaningful dialogue," Dougan said. "That means discussions about changes that are inevitable, that are going to happen across the government."

President Obama this month renewed the executive order reestablishing partnership councils, which thrived under President Clinton but were quickly killed when President George W. Bush took office.

And next November's election could once again spell doom for the partnership effort.

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