Back on June 17, 2016—after hearing from many of us at the National Training Conference about the severely deteriorated state of the NTEU/HHS labor-management relationship—I reported to you that NTEU National President Tony Reardon had written to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell outlining our concerns about the poor state of affairs, and asking for her help in “resetting the relationship.” I also reported that Tony had received a response in which the agency “committed to working with NTEU in establishing and maintaining a positive working relationship to ensure a healthy environment for our employees.” Finally, I reported that NTEU staff had met with top Labor Relations (LR) officials, pursuant to that response, to discuss the matters raised. In that meeting, HHS committed to further meetings, and to an ongoing dialogue, in a joint effort to get the relationship on a more productive track.
Unfortunately, due to cancellations on HHS’ part, and the departure of key HHS staff, follow-up meetings did not occur. Accordingly, in order to keep this effort on track, Tony wrote a letter on October 14, 2016, to HHS Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield, seeking additional assistance.
I can now report that last week, as a result of that letter, Tony met with HHS Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Christine M. Major, to personally convey NTEU’s concerns about the state of our relationship, and discuss how to go about improving it. They discussed a wide range of specific issues, including HHS’ persistent failure to properly process 1187s (the subject of a pending national grievance), the widespread perception among NTEU chapter leaders and employees that they are targeted for retaliation for participating in the grievance process, and the actions of certain HHS LR staff.
Ms. Major committed to Tony that she will look into the specific concerns he raised, and will meet again with NTEU in January, in order to keep this effort on track. Because there is so much work to do here, I cannot predict immediate results, but I did want to report to you that Tony remains committed to this effort, and to let you know what has occurred so far.
I will keep you posted on further developments.