OPM Guidance on Executive Order on Dismantling the Labor-Management Forums

NTEU will take appropriate action, where necessary, to ensure that our collective bargaining agreements are followed.

President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump

As I indicated in a prior post, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) in late September to dismantle the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations as well as agency Labor-Management Forums. The “Presidential Executive Order on the Revocation of Executive Order Creating Labor-Management Forums” overrides both the Obama Administration’s EO 13522, issued in December 2009 to re-establish the Clinton era created agency labor-management forums, and its subsequent EO 13708 issued in September 2015.

United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) logoAlthough President Trump’s EO indicated that it had no effect on agency-level Labor-Management Forums that are established under a collective bargaining agreement or on any statutorily-required negotiations, the administration has now gone one step further, as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has now issued new “guidance” to agencies on implementing the EO. OPM is now directing agencies to rescind any “orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies” issued in connection with the creation of the forums. Furthermore, OPM states that where “a forum, or guideline, rule, or policy associated with that forum, has been imbedded into a collective bargaining agreement or other memorandum of understanding with a collective bargaining agent for employees at the agency, the agency should seek to renegotiate those terms at the earliest practicable juncture… . If a term or article of a collective bargaining agreement or memorandum of understanding was explicitly agreed upon for the purpose of creating and supporting a forum pursuant to E.O. 13522, the rescission of E.O. 13522 may also grant agencies the authority to declare such agreements non-enforceable and thus null and void absent the need to renegotiate these agreements.”

Although the meaning of this last sentence is not clear, NTEU does not believe that agencies have the right to revoke the terms of any collective bargaining agreement relating to Labor-Management Forums, or to declare these provisions unenforceable. NTEU will take appropriate action, where necessary, to ensure that our collective bargaining agreements are followed.

The OPM guidance further states that “agencies should utilize pre-decisional involvement (PDI) only to the extent that the cost of doing so brings tangible benefits to the agency. To the extent to which agencies’ utilization of PDI, pursuant to Section 3(a)(ii) of E.O. 13522, is imbedded into collective bargaining agreements or other memorandum of understanding and such agreements compel agencies to utilize PDI without the sole consideration being the tangible benefit to the agency accrued from its utilization, the agency should seek to renegotiate those agreements at the earliest practicable juncture.” In our view, this direction by OPM is foolish and short-sighted, and represents yet another step in the administration’s effort to sideline the voices of frontline employees and diminish their role in the workplace. It also undercuts other administration guidance that agencies should be strengthened by removing barriers that make it harder for front-line employees to deliver results.

People overlapping hands to show unityPDI, through Labor-Management Forums and processes put into place by these forums, has given employees a voice in decisions on all types of workplace issues, including how the mission is accomplished, and have resulted in greater efficiency and demonstrated increases in employee engagement and morale. Labor-Management Forums have improved the labor-management relationship by keeping communication lines open and solving problems in the workplace before they worsen. In many cases, PDI and labor-management collaboration have reduced or even eliminated the time and expense associated with formal bargaining over impact and implementation of agency decisions on changes in working conditions. While some agencies were slow in adopting PDI, many other agencies recognized the benefits of pre-decisional involvement as an important tool to promote employee engagement, and have taken steps to integrate these efforts into their everyday operations.

For an administration that is presently undertaking agency reorganizations, with an eye to reducing operational costs and to achieving workplace efficiencies, and with Congress’ added interest in improved employee engagement and morale, to state that it is too time-consuming and costly to directly engage in dialogue with its own employees is ill-advised and self-defeating. For these efforts to be successful, there needs to be greater utilization of PDI, not less.

NTEU will continue to work with agency management in a collaborative manner whenever possible, to bring employee perspective and concerns to management before decisions are made.