REE Commercial Services Management Program
HUMAN RESOURCES & UNION RELATED FAQs
As soon as any legally required union consultation has occurred, REE will notify affected employees. Affected employees will be kept apprised of the status of the competitive sourcing initiative at every major milestone of the process.
Currently ARS is the only REE agency with unions representing some of its employees. ARS will consult with unions and local bargaining units prior to announcing any competitive sourcing studies as appropriate. Unless otherwise provided for in existing bargaining unit agreements, unions will be limited to participating in the development of the PWS.
There is opportunity for employees to participate in teams and workgroups
that are involved in the process and training will be provided as needed for
this effort. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to make assignments and
determine how best to accomplish the work. Participation on the PWS, Management
Plan and source selection teams needs to be carefully managed to minimize
certain functional conflicts of interest and to protect the employees’ Right
of First Refusal.
Where a formal Competitive Sourcing cost comparison is initiated, REE will follow OMB Circular A-76 Handbook. In addition, upon issuance, a solicitation used in the conduct of a cost comparison will be made available to directly affected Federal employees or their representatives for comment. The employees or their representatives will be given sufficient time to review the document and submit comments before final receipt of offers from the private sector. Private sector offerors shall also comment as provided by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).
The Circular identifies many roles and responsibilities that have a potential for conflicts of interest. The following is an abbreviated outline of what is, and is not, allowed:
- If you serve on the PWS team –
- You cannot serve on the MEO team
- You can be on the Evaluation Board if you are not an affected employee
- If you serve on the MEO team –
- You cannot serve on the PWS team
- You cannot serve on the Evaluation Board
- If you serve on the Evaluation Board –
- You can serve on the PWS team
- You cannot serve on the MEO team
The A-76 process allows employees to bid on their own work through the process of designing a Most Efficient Organization (MEO) and formulating a government cost estimate. The procedures in OMB Circular A-76 are designed with safeguards to ensure fairness to all affected parties.
Yes. Contests or Appeals are addressed in the Circular, Attachment B, paragraph F. The following are contestable in a standard competition: (1) a solicitation, (2) the cancellation of a solicitation, (3) a determination to exclude a tender or offer from a standard competition, (4) a performance decision (5) a termination or cancellation of a contract or letter of obligation. The FAR, Subpart 33.103 is the governing document. No party may contest any aspect of a streamlined competition.
If the Most Efficient Organization is awarded the contract, REE will implement its MEO. Given the expected changing nature of the workforce in the coming years, it is the Department’s goal to either avoid or minimize the need for Reductions in Force (RIFs). If, as a last resort, RIF is necessary, affected employees have many rights and benefits of which REE will make maximum use. Affected employees will be provided assistance to explore opportunities for positions elsewhere in USDA and other Federal agencies.
Employees whose functions undergo standard or streamlined A-76 studies and subsequently are converted to a private sector contractor are eligible for Right of First Refusal (ROFR). Federal acquisition regulations provide for the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) which requires that for A-76 studies, the successful contractor offer affected Federal employees first consideration for open positions available under the contract for which they qualify. A standard clause indicating this is included in cost comparison solicitations.
A contractor must pay wages based on the Department of Labor Service Contract Act (SCA) wage determinations specified in the solicitation. Except for bona fide executive, administrative and professional positions exempt from SCA wage determination coverage, any employee must be paid the minimum wage determined by the Federal Labor Standards Act. Contractors do not have to pay the same as the government does and there is no requirement that the selected contractor be obligated to include any benefits not included in a SCA wage determination. However, there are contractors who have employee benefit packages that offer higher salaries and benefits than the government.
The USDA’s Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) provides career transition and placement services for REE employees who have been, or are faced with, separation by RIF. The REE information is REE Policy & Procedure (P&P) 413.7 “Career Transition Assistance Plan”, dated 12/01.
An employee is eligible for discontinued service retirement under both CSRS and FERS only if the employee is reached for an involuntary action (such as job abolishment or reassignment to a position in a different commuting area), and does not receive an offer from his or her agency of another position in the same local commuting area that is within two grades of the employee's present position.
- The employee must be at least age 50 and have completed 20 or more years of total creditable service, or
- The employee may be any age, but must have completed a minimum of 25 years of total creditable service.
Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the gross annual annuity
of an employee who retires before age 55 on a discontinued service retirement
is reduced by 2% a year (or the month fraction thereof) for each year the
employee is under 55.
Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), there is no annuity reduction for employees who retire on a discontinued service annuity under the age of 55.
Reduction-in-Force (RIF) refers to the statutory and regulatory procedures federal agencies must follow when it is necessary to lay off employees, furlough them for more than 30 days, reassign them when doing so would displace another employee, or demote them because of lack of funds, reorganization, changes in program or decreases in work. Any of these situations might arise when a function previously performed in-house is converted to contract or the MEO implementation results in fewer positions. For more information, see the OPM Employee's Guide to RIF. A copy may be obtained online at http://www.opm.gov/reduction_in_force/. The REE P&P is number 425.2, “Reduction In Force”, dated 6/14/00.
Grade and pay retention apply in certain situations when an employee is demoted through no fault of his/her own. For example, if an employee’s position is abolished by virtue of being converted to a private sector contractor or the MEO, and that employee is placed in a lower graded position through RIF procedures, then grade retention would apply as long as the employee had served the 52 consecutive weeks (or more) at a grade level higher than the grade to which the employee was demoted.
Eligible employees may receive grade retention for two years commencing on the date in which the employee is placed in the lower graded position. During the two-year period, an employee’s retained grade is considered the employee’s grade for pay administration purposes, retirement, life insurance, eligibility for training, and noncompetitive promotion. The employee is entitled to receive within grade increases and comparability increases at the retained grade level.
Pay retention comes into play when the two-year grade retention period expires
for employees who were changed to a lower grade due to RIF procedures. Example:
If an employee whose job was converted to a private sector contractor or the
MEO had been changed to a lower grade and was unable to find a job at his
or her original grade during the two-year grade retention period, then at
the end of the two-year grade retention period, he or she is reclassified
to the lower grade but is placed on pay retention. The employee is then entitled
to retain his/her rate of basic pay earned in the position prior to the RIF
that is higher than the maximum rate of the lower graded position.
Unless terminated under the conditions spelled out in Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 536.209, pay retention continues until the maximum rate for the grade the employee is occupying equals or exceeds the employee’s retained pay rate. Under pay retention, an employee only receives 50 percent of the annual pay adjustment. Thus, each year the gap between the employee’s retained pay rate and the rate of pay for the position occupied gets smaller.
The Office of Personnel Management’s Employee’s Guide to Benefits for Those Affected by Reduction in Force covers how an employee’s retirement, health, life insurance and the Thrift Savings Plan are affected when the employee is separated under RIF regulations. A copy may be obtained online at http://www.opm.gov/rif/general/egrifben.htm.
Yes. If an employee is separated under a RIF, is not eligible to retire, and is not drawing military retirement, that employee is entitled to severance pay and unemployment compensation. The employee's Servicing Human Resource Office can provide him/her with estimates of what the severance pay will be. Employees can also estimate the amount of their severance pay using the OPM Employee’s Guide to Benefits for those affected by RIF. Servicing HR Offices can also provide for information about unemployment benefits.
Does an employee have rights under the EEO process to file for alleged discrimination (age, race, etc.) when and if their position is (1) identified as commercial in the inventory phase and (2) outsourced at the end of a streamlined or standard A-76 process?
Any employee, who believes that he/she has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age, can file an EEO complaint on any employment matter. Therefore, this matter would be covered. Whether or not the conversion, etc., was discriminatory is a different issue. What is questionable is whether an employee can file a complaint concerning a conversion because of alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is different from the other basis because the other basis (race, etc., is a matter of law), the sexual orientation is an internal administrative process.
At present, the Circular dated May 29, 2003 does not provide for Direct Conversions or Express Reviews directly. The agency may request a deviation to use these and other alternatives to the standard and streamlined competitions. If they are requested and approved, part of that approval would be an outline of the appeals or contest. This would be provided to the employees along with the announcement.
Last updated: 11/06/07