National Grievance over Unilateral Implementation of FDA Staff Manual Guides

Official travelOn September 30, 2016, NTEU filed a national grievance asserting that the FDA violated Articles 3 and 42 of the parties’ Consolidated Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the provisions of the Federal Travel Regulations, and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute when it unilaterally implemented three Staff Manual Guides (SMGs) related to travel without providing NTEU notice or an opportunity to bargain.

Specifically, the “Updates to Other Than Coach Class Travel SMG 2340.2” (SMG 2340.2) violates the 14-hour rule to travel other than coach-class in 41 CFR §301-10.125 (FTR) and Article 42, Sections 11(14) and 12 of the CBA by excluding flying time for domestic segments and domestic layovers/wait times. Recently the agency has invoked SMG 2340.2 and the HHS Travel Manual to improperly deny business class accommodations to several bargaining unit employees who satisfied the three criteria in FTR §301-10.125 and were eligible to receive such accommodations on foreign travel. This egregious pattern of improper denials of business class accommodations is unacceptable, and results in exhausted employees who are unable to perform inspections at the expected level, puts their health and safety in jeopardy, and interferes with the agency’s mission of having its inspectors perform high-quality inspections.

The second unilaterally-implemented SMG requires an employee to provide receipts for certain miscellaneous receipts even if the value is below the $75 threshold established by contract and law. This violates Article 42, Section 3B of the CBA and 41 CFR § 301-11.25 (FTR) and 41 CFR § 301-52.4 (FTR).

The third unilaterally-implemented SMG introduces new definitions and procedures for submitting actual expense requests and seeking lodging deposits that were not negotiated with NTEU and are inconsistent with Article 42 of the CBA and 41 CFR § 301-11, which governs temporary duty travel allowances and reimbursement procedures.

As a remedy, NTEU hereby requests that the FDA:

  1. cease and desist from breaching Articles 3 and 42 of the CBA, the Federal Travel Regulations, and the statute, and immediately comply with the contract provisions, the FTRs, and federal law;
  2. immediately rescind the unilaterally-implemented SMGs, including any associated forms, and restore the status quo ante;
  3. provide NTEU with a copy of any notice it sends to bargaining unit employees rescinding the SMGs;
  4. provide make whole relief for any impacted bargaining unit employees who have been harmed by the changes alleged herein;
  5. post a notice that FDA has committed an unfair labor practice on all FDA bulletin boards, both physical and electronic, signed by the Commissioner, for a period of 60 days; and
  6. provide any other appropriate remedy allowed by law, rule, and regulation, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees consistent with the Back Pay Act.