Facts? This is from the Federal Times, about half way down the doc. look where I inserted
The question about their retirement. So the money they paid into FER’s, will help with their Social Security, without COLA increases, So as cost of living goes up, there money goes down. Absolutely nothing about retirement. It’s gone…
Federal Aviation Administration
Piloting a course through RIFs, new pay system
August 26, 2005
Ventris Gibson is Assistant Administrator of Human Resources for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Photo by Rob Curtis / Federal Times
Ventris Gibson started her federal career 27 years ago directing air traffic for the Navy. Today, shes helping direct the 46,000-person Federal Aviation Administration through one of its most turbulent periods since President Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981.
Gibson is helping oversee the transfer of 2,400 FAA flight service jobs to Lockheed Martin, a decision that has triggered bid protests, lawsuits and outcry from some lawmakers. Moreover, she is negotiating with union officials to bring the remaining 18 percent of the agencys work force under a pay-for-performance system; Congress authorized the agency in 1996 to adopt a pay-for-performance system. She also is preparing to hire nearly 600 air traffic controllers next fiscal year to cope with an expected wave of retirements.
But Gibson had anticipated all these bumpy conditions when she walked through FAAs door almost two years ago as the agencys assistant administrator for human resources management.
When I came to FAA, I expected to work in a human resources management program that was independent, unique and met the needs of our employees and managers, she said. I found not only do we have the authority of having an independent HR system but we had the tools we needed to build upon that system.
Before coming to FAA, Gibson was the deputy assistant secretary for human resources management at the Veterans Affairs Department the highest-ranking female veteran employed by VA. She had joined the VA in 1980 as a personnel clerk in Washington and climbed the career ladder until, as deputy assistant secretary for resolution management, she was given the challenging task of creating a congressionally mandated dispute resolution program to improve VAs handling of discrimination complaints. The work earned her in 1999 the meritorious award, the second-highest honor for Senior Executive Service members.
Gibson sat down with Federal Times to discuss the vast changes under way at FAA:
Q: The House passed a spending bill that would stop FAA from outsourcing the flight service function. What will happen if the Senate agrees with the House?
Gibson: If the Senate were to agree, and I dont believe that that happened, it still has to go to the president. And the president either will approve it or veto it.
Q: So, youre not worried about that.
Gibson: At this time, Im not worried because my focus is making sure that we transition the work force into the competitive sourcing area and that is, unfortunately, a reduction in force. Our work force did receive their RIF notices on July 18 because were required to give them a 60-day advance notice.
Q: I heard not all employees were offered jobs with Lockheed.
Gibson: All employees were given the right of first refusal. The right of first refusal from Lockheed was, Heres the job offer. You accept or not. Some accepted, some obviously did not apply, and some declined. But they were all offered jobs.
Q: What did you do to help employees with the transition?
Gibson: It was a significant challenge for us. We went all out. We have dedicated Web pages to provide transition information. We have a special placement program where if an employee walks out the door under a reduction in force for two years [after] they receive their reduction-in-force notices, they can receive consideration and must be selected, if well qualified, for a job within the agency. We have certain provisions other agencies dont. For example, the 40 percent sick leave buy back: What well do is buy your sick leave from you for 40 percent on the dollar if you are retiring. We have had human resources teams visit each of the flight service station sites twice. We hired FPMI Solutions, Inc. to provide career transition services resume writing, interview techniques, skills assessment. The administrator and myself also have flown to sites and talked to employees.
Q: What about employees concerns about losing their retirement benefits?
Gibson: Thats really not so because if Im not eligible for voluntary or regular retirement, my retirement can stay in the retirement fund and I can get it at the time I become eligible. And lets remember that if youre under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the majority of what youre paying is Social Security. So if you leave FAA, go work for Lockheed Martin and youre still under Social Security, thats still going to help you into your retirement. Some have concerns about their percentage of contributions because theyre under the special air traffic controller retirement system. We have published information explaining that on our Web site and documents. We even published brochures explaining that in detail. And pretty much the majority of those questions have settled as people have become aware of their individual circumstances.
And that was the reason why we want the HR team to travel to the facilities to meet with employees. I remember one meeting where we sat down with an employee and once he understood, he was OK. So, its a process of education. And that would be my recommendation to anyone who is undergoing this process that you really must educate your work force so that they fully understand the options and can make well-informed decisions.
Q: What are lessons learned from this study that can be applied to future studies?
Gibson: Weve done everything. I would want to follow the example set by our competitive sourcing organization here as they did a phenomenal job.
Q: What are other functions that will be studied in the near future?
Gibson: At this time, Im not aware if we have any.
Q: Lets talk about pay for performance. How do you like being paid for your performance?
Gibson: It is the greatest things since sliced bread, especially for someone like myself who came from a Title 5 environment where we didnt have pay for performance to an environment where I know that my contribution to the overall goal of the agency is going to drive what my pay increase will be. And thats exactly the way it should be.
Q: FAA has been using pay for performance since 1996. Is the system going to be applied to all 46,000 employees? If thats the case, what is the timeframe for that?
Gibson: Eighty-two percent of our work force is under pay for performance. Were now seeking to fold in the rest of the work force, and labor negotiations drive that. Were actively in union negotiations with our air traffic controllers union now. As to a time frame, labor negotiations are ongoing now and it would be premature for me to estimate.
Q: As you have some experience with pay for performance, what are your recommendations for the Defense and Homeland Security departments as theyre transitioning into their new personnel systems, which include pay for performance?
Gibson: Involve their employee groups. Have a solid internal communication strategy to employees, a continuous education program, and basic assurance to employees of what they can expect and what they dont have to worry about. And periodic assessment of their systems to ensure theyre still on track.
Q: FAA is hiring nearly 600 air traffic controllers next year as part of the plan to hire 12,500 air traffic controllers over 10 years to cope with new waves of retirement and other personnel losses. Are you confident youre going to be able to hire all these people in time?
Gibson: Most definitely, yes. We have various lists that are robust. We have what we call the college training initiative. These are where our colleges and universities have accredited aviation programs that graduate individuals as air traffic controllers. That has hundreds of candidates on it a year. The second is veterans. These are individuals who are air traffic controllers in the military. We have hundreds on that list as well. We have former controllers seeking reinstatement. And then another is when we choose to do job fairs.
I can tell you that when we ran job fairs in the past, we had hundreds and thousands of people nationwide who wanted to be air traffic controllers.