Now that the president’s harmful executive orders have been issued, HHS has decided to restart bargaining over a new contract—after delaying the process for nearly three years— and has proposed changes to the contract that would erode or outright eliminate important rights.
Among other things, HHS proposes totally eliminating 13 articles from the contract including those addressing alternative work schedules (AWS), telework, awards, details and reassignments, and transit subsidies. Without these contract articles, HHS would be able to unilaterally make decisions on all these important subjects, including eliminating these programs altogether.
HHS is also seeking to strip employees of key rights, including restricting their access to a union steward to help resolve workplace issues. Another management proposal would prohibit employees and the union from challenging unfair management decisions in 40 different areas. This means that the agency can make completely arbitrary decisions in these areas with no accountability, including performance ratings; disciplinary actions; decisions involving awards and incentive pay; and disputes over leave, promotions and AWS.
The agency’s proposals are an attack on and an insult to hardworking HHS employees. NTEU will stand firm in defense of your rights during what will undoubtedly be long and contentious negotiations.
NTEU is not just fighting to protect your existing rights and benefits—we want to expand them. Here are highlights of some of the union’s proposals:
- Increased performance and incentive awards
- A new agency-wide student loan repayment program
- Make it easier for employees to use accrued annual and sick leave
- Six weeks of paid parental leave and up to six months of leave for new parents
- Improved merit promotion system and more fairness and transparency for details and reassignments
- Employee involvement, through their union, in decisions about office space,relocations, and office sharing/desk sharing
HHS Bargaining Tactics
After NTEU opened the current contract in July 2015, HHS stalled for two years. NTEU took the case to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), a group of presidential appointees who are authorized to resolve federal collective bargaining disputes, and the FSIP imposed ground rules on the parties. HHS then refused to follow those rules, prompting NTEU to take legal action, which is still pending.
Last year, the current administration replaced the FSIP members with new members who are extremely anti-employee. With impasses now going to the newly-appointed FSIP and prompted by the new executive orders, HHS notified NTEU that it now wants to “bargain.” HHS then unilaterally established an expedited bargaining schedule. NTEU has responded by formally challenging the legality of HHS’ unilateral actions, but we have submitted our proposals to protect our bargaining position.
HHS is treating its employees and NTEU with disrespect, if not contempt. NTEU needs the support of every employee in what will be a prolonged and difficult fight to protect your workplace rights and benefits that you have enjoyed, and that we worked so hard over many years to achieve. Look for more to come on what you can do to support our fight.