OPM creates interagency council to deal with Metro maintenance plan

The Office of Personnel Management has released initial guidance  for agencies on best to deal with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority plan to repair its subway system.

“OPM has established an interagency working group, through the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, to assess the potential impact on federal employees and agency operations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,” said Beth Cobert, acting OPM director in  a memo sent to agency officials May 20. “The responsibility of this group is to discuss agency concerns, develop options and share agency best practices for maintaining productivity and continuity of operations during this project.”

OPM said it will issue additional guidance based upon the recommendations of the working group as maintenance on the metro system continues. OPM also is consulting federal employee labor unions and other employee groups, seeking recommendations and feedback.

OPM also said that agencies should be prepared to take advantage of any available flexible work plans, including telework, alternative work schedules and leave.  It recommended reviewing these policies, renewing outdated telework agreements and establishing new agreements where applicable.

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OPM urged agencies to taking these steps immediately, and communicate regularly with leadership regarding all flexibility policies and plans.

The Metro maintenance plan involves periodic shutdowns and reduced service along certain portions of the Metrorail from June 6, 2016 until March 19, 2017.

The memo from OPM came hours after Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld issued an internal memo to Metro employees that more than a dozen Metro managers are being fired, seven of them senior leadership, and that more layoffs may be coming.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) emphasized the need for OPM to consider federal employees’ commuting needs.

“My office urges regional employers and federal agencies to remind workers of, and consider enhancing, options of telework and flexible work schedules,” Beyer said in a May 6 release.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) echoed Beyer’s sentiments in a May 19 release.

“The success of SafeTrack demands an open and transparent process, but most important it will require a robust communications strategy that regularly informs the public as we move through this unprecedented maintenance and rebuilding plan,” Connolly said. “Recognizing the sizeable impact this will have on federal employees who overwhelmingly rely on Metro and federal facilities served by Metro, it is imperative that OPM push to expand telework opportunities for our federal workforce.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said the Senate included $150 million for infrastructure improvements for WMATA as part of the fiscal 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

“I’ve fought tooth and nail for federal funding to improve the safety, security and reliability of Metro,” Mikulski said in a May 20 release. “My amendment provides FTA with the manpower needed to make sure Metro is improving the safety of the system.”

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