A World of Decent Work: Labor Diplomacy for the New Century
Report of the Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy to the Secretary of State and the President of the United States, September 2000
THE LABOR DIPLOMACY PROGRAM
Overview of the Labor Diplomacy Program
Labor Officers and Labor Reporting Officers Overseas
In countries where the United States has a presence and where there is no Labor Officer, a Foreign Service Officer is usually designated as the Labor Reporting Officer, normally after arriving at post. Labor Reporting Officers have many other duties, and usually receive no special training. They have limited labor-related responsibilities, consisting primarily of reporting on labor issues in the host country as needs dictate.
The Special Representative for International Labor Affairs and the International Labor Affairs Office
Labor Positions Overseas
As noted, the Roosevelt Administration established the Labor Attaché program in 1943. By 1966, there were 89 full-time or essentially full-time labor positions in the Foreign Service, with 73 of these positions abroad. Over 50% of those officers had been recruited from outside the State Department for their labor background (under a program which no longer exists). Seventeen of these Labor Attaché positions were senior level and 58 were mid-level positions.
From the 1980's until 1997, the number of Labor Attachés, (redesignated as "Labor Officers,") significantly decreased. In addition, the grade level of many labor positions was lowered. This occurred in the context of an overall downsizing of the State Department and the Foreign Service. By 1997, the number of labor-designated positions abroad reached a low of 33. The total number of Foreign Service Officers in 1997 was approximately 4400.
Over the period from 1998 to 2000, the number of labor-designated positions was increased to 49. However, today it is rare for a Labor Officer to work exclusively on labor issues. Labor Officers are frequently designated "Political/Labor" or "Economic/Labor," a reflection of the fact that they are required to devote a considerable portion of their time to responsibilities not directly related to labor issues.
Labor Officers are career Foreign Service Officers, except for the Department of Labor participants in the recently established exchange program described elsewhere in this Report. Well over half of the Labor Officers presently in the field are on their first tour as Labor Officers.
Currently, there are only seven senior-level Labor Officer positions in the State Department (grade FE-OC and above). [note 19]
Labor-Related Positions at the State Department
Special Representative for International Labor Affairs
In 1962, the position of Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and Coordinator of International Labor Affairs was created. In 1993, the office of the Special Assistant was merged with the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Bureau, which was renamed the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor ("DRL"). The Special Assistant's position was converted to that of a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the new DRL Bureau and eventually was assigned democracy and human rights responsibilities, as well as labor. This change was justified as "mainstreaming" labor issues at the State Department, but it was perceived as a downgrading of the top labor position in the Department.
In 1999, in a move to revitalize the labor function at the Department, the Secretary of State established the position of Special Representative for International Labor Affairs. The Special Representative has direct access to the Secretary of State, but normally reports through the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on routine matters.
The Special Representative is currently serving as a fixed-term Schedule B appointment. A request by the State Department to the Office of Personnel Management for classification of the position as a limited term Senior Executive Service position, for a maximum of three years, was recently turned down, because the State Department currently exceeds its quota for such positions.
The Special Representative is supported by the International Labor Affairs Office. The office consists of a Director (Foreign Service), Deputy Director (Civil Service), two Foreign Service Officers, one Civil Service Officer, two Department of Labor detailees, one Presidential Management Intern and two support staff.
Regional Labor Advisors
Over time, most Regional Labor Advisor positions have been abolished by the Regional Bureaus. At present, there are only two Regional Labor Advisor positions. One is a senior position in the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, occupied by a senior Labor Counselor. A second position, in the African Affairs Bureau, was vacant for over a year, but is in the process of being filled by a Department of Labor detailee.
International Organization Affairs Bureau
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
FY 2001 Budget Request
The FY 2001 Administration budget request contains a proposal for 22 new international labor positions as follows:
Regional Bureau Authority Over Labor Officers
Role of the International Labor Affairs Office in Labor Assignments, Tasking and Orientation
All Foreign Service Officers engage in a "bid" process for their onward assignments. The International Labor Affairs Office actively recruits Foreign Service Officers for available Labor Officer positions. Assignment panels (subject to review by the Bureau of Human Resources) have ultimate decision-making authority in the assignment of all Foreign Service Officers. In recruiting Labor Officer candidates and making its recommendations on location of Labor Officer positions, the International Labor Affairs Office consults closely with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, and takes its views into account.
As noted, the International Labor Affairs Office also initiates taskings for Labor Officers and Labor Reporting Officers, including requests for investigation, reporting and delivering official U.S. positions to host governments, subject to the approval of the Regional Bureaus. For the past three years, the Office has also convened an annual Worldwide Labor Officers Conference, which provides a focal point for Labor Officer orientation, enrichment and sharing of best practices.
Organization and Career Path of Foreign Service Officers and of Labor Officers
The Promotion System
The Foreign Service promotion system operates on an "up or out" basis. An officer may spend no more than a fixed number of years in a grade and, if not promoted during that period, must leave the Foreign Service. Generally, the more senior the grade, the fewer promotion opportunities available in that grade. In addition, there is a maximum of 27 years after entry into the Foreign Service before an officer must either be selected for the Senior Foreign Service or be required to retire.
Each year, Selection Boards, composed of Foreign Service Officers, a U.S. Government official from another agency, and at least one member of the public, evaluate all candidates for promotion. It has been a longstanding practice of the U.S. Department of Labor to have a representative sit on the senior threshold Board and usually also on an FS-02 to FS-01 Board. The Selection Boards evaluate the candidates on the basis of Employee Evaluation Reports ("EERs"). These EERs are drafted in accordance with "promotion precepts," which set forth the criteria for evaluation of Foreign Service Officers. The promotion precepts do not describe substantive content, but rather focus on qualitative attributes, such as "leadership skills", "managerial skills", and "interpersonal skills." Each year, the selection boards receive a "Supplement to Core Precepts" which describes the functions of Labor Officers, as well as other specialized positions.
Selection Boards are required to low-rank 5% of all candidates. Two low-rankings in a five-year period result in a referral to another board for possible removal from the Foreign Service.
The Labor Promotion Track
Concurrent with the abolition of the labor promotion track, the Department broadened opportunities for Labor Officers to compete for promotion in a "multi-functional" competition. Any Foreign Service Officer, regardless of cone, who serves a tour as a Labor, Science or Narcotics officer (as well as officers who serve "out of cone" in a variety of other assignments) is now eligible to compete both in cone and in a special multi-functional competition. Because so many Foreign Service Officers are eligible to compete multi-functionally, the multi-functional competition cannot be considered to be an adequate substitute for the labor promotion track, and it is unclear whether Labor Officers will see significant benefits from this program to compensate for an institutional disposition disfavoring specialization.
The Labor Department/State Department Exchange Program
In 1999, the State Department and the Labor Department implemented an exchange program, through which employees of each Department may be detailed to the other. That year, five Department of Labor officials were assigned to Embassies overseas to function as Labor Officers, and four Department of Labor officials were detailed for one year to the State Department to work on labor issues in the International Labor Affairs Office and other offices. For the fall of 2000, two additional Department of Labor detailees have been selected for overseas assignments and four detailees will be placed in Washington-based assignments. The Department of Labor pays the salaries and benefits of these detailees, while the cost of overseas assignments are borne by the State Department. The overseas employees serve in "limited non-career assignments" within the State Department.
A State Department senior Labor Officer will begin working at the Department of Labor, in the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, in September of 2000. Thus far, he is the only State Department officer participating in the exchange. His salary and benefits during this assignment will be paid by the State Department.
Labor Training at the State Department
The Labor Officer Course
In the 1960's and 1970's, most new Labor Officers had eight weeks of training at the Institute, and frequently were assigned to a semester of labor studies at Georgetown or Harvard. In the 1980's, academic labor training was phased out, largely for budgetary reasons, and the Institute's Labor Officer course was reduced to six weeks, and in the 1990's, to the current three weeks.
Labor Content in Other Courses
The inclusion of labor content in courses at the Institute, however, has not been institutionalized. The Institute is decentralized, and the curriculum of each course generally depends on the course director. Addition or deletion of labor content usually occurs on an ad hoc basis. There has been no systematic evaluation of the labor content in the Institute's courses to determine its adequacy to meet the needs of labor diplomacy.
Ambassadorial and DCM Labor Consultations
Ambassadors and Deputy Chiefs of Mission engage in consultations with U.S. Government officials and non-governmental organizations prior to heading out to their posts. These consultations sometimes include the International Labor Affairs Office and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Strategic Planning at the State Department
The U.S. Strategic Plan for International Affairs includes the strategic goal of "Democracy and Human Rights" and calls for the following: "Advance core labor standards, strengthen independent trade union movements, and promote labor [and] human rights." It also includes, for the same goal, the building of "representative labor movements" to advance democracy.
The most recent State Department Strategic Plan, issued in 1997, contains several references to labor. For example, a Strategy related to the National Interest of Economic Prosperity includes extending international rules and agreements to areas such as core labor standards. In addition, a Strategy related to the national interest of Democracy includes building, strengthening and employing international fora to secure democratic transitions, prevent conflict and promote human rights, including labor rights. Indicators as to whether the Department is meeting Democracy goals include adherence to international standards as measured by conformity to labor conventions. [note 20]
The Bureau Performance Plan for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor includes a detailed section concerning the State Department's international labor rights goals.
The Mission Performance Plan review process allows for input from the International Labor Affairs Office and the Department of Labor. However, the Mission Performance Plans do not always include full coverage of the labor issues of importance in each country.
20. The State Department Strategic Plan is in the process of being redrafted, and is scheduled for release later this year.
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