For Immediate Release September 19, 2007
Union Objects to “Protocols” for
Negotiations between the Union representing federal employees in Chicago, NFFE, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and the General Services Administration, have reached an impasse over the imposition of so-called “Workplace Protocols” imposed upon employees assigned to newly installed office space. The proposed rules are defined as “forms of etiquette observed by members of a common organization,” and “define the social norms” expected of them. The rules state that employees will keep sound levels to a minimum” and that quiet rooms are available for necessary personal conversations. Employees are to avoid conversing across two or more workstations. Also, desk and cell phone ringers should be kept on low volume or vibrate. Other rules apply to the cleanliness of one’s workstation, and the general area.
The rules were implemented in conjunction with installation of a prototype of new office space for federal government employees nationwide, termed “WorkPlace 2020.” GSA, through its Public Buildings Service, or PBS, is the largest public real estate organization in the country. PBS has an inventory of over 342 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million employees in 2,100 locations. PBS manages over 1,500 government owned buildings.
According to the agency’s website, employees are informed that “Your new space is more than just a new location, it’s a new way of working.” The Union does not think that new office furniture should result in new standards of conduct for office employees. Charles Paidock, Vice President of the Great Lakes Region of NFFE, stated that: “There rules are inherently problematic because of their subjective application by supervisors. Managers want to please those above them, and these rules can become more oppressive the further you go down the line. We’ve already had them issuing their own memorandums. What is frightening is that they are selling this as the office space of the future for the entire country.”
The matter has been referred to the parties at the national level in Washington for resolution.