At the end of last year, NTEU and HHS concluded two weeks of contract negotiations with a federal mediator, as ordered by the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP). The unfairly abbreviated bargaining continued a contentious tone with HHS refusing to meet face-to-face with NTEU’s bargaining team and advising NTEU to submit any questions on proposals in writing.
At the end of bargaining, the FSIP ordered NTEU and HHS to submit last best offers that it would likely adopt. Here are summaries of three important articles out of the 22 last best offers NTEU and HHS submitted:
Telework: HHS proposed limiting telework to one day per week while also giving managers the power to altogether eliminate an employee’s telework schedule. Without providing evidence that the current program isn’t working, HHS asserted it needs greater flexibility to make decisions about telework. Because of management’s lack of evidence, NTEU proposed maintaining the current telework program.
Awards: Without any evidence of problems with the existing awards program, HHS proposed eliminating all award committees and the negotiated percentage of awards based on an employee’s summary rating. In its place, HHS proposed giving management sole discretion to make decisions on performance awards and amounts, and employees have no right to grieve decisions they deem unfair.
NTEU proposes retaining the existing awards program and contract language, while making the process more efficient by eliminating all performance award committees below the national level. NTEU proposed eliminating incentive awards and the incentive awards committees in all OpDivs, except FDA, and to instead focus on performance awards in those OpDivs.
Annual Leave: HHS wants to put severe restraints on your right to take annual leave under the guise of “management flexibility.” HHS proposed that no annual leave longer than five consecutive workdays may be taken during October, November and December, and all requests for annual leave during those months must be submitted in September.
HHS also proposed that any annual leave of five consecutive workdays immediately before or after a federal holiday must be requested at least 60 days in advance.
NTEU proposed to retain the current contract language because it is consistent with law and regulation and has worked well for nearly a decade.
NTEU and HHS agreed to roll over existing language on articles covering personnel records, family leave, leave sharing, and public transportation subsidies.
In addition, the FSIP declined to assert jurisdiction over six articles, including AWS/Hours of Work and Grievances, so NTEU and HHS could return to the bargaining table to negotiate over them.
The FSIP must next issue a decision on the merits of the last best offers and submissions in support of the offers. However, the FSIP cannot act on the dispute until after the government reopens so a decision may not come until February or March.
In the meantime, NTEU continues to pursue its multiple grievances against HHS for illegal bad faith bargaining. Last month, NTEU filed a fourth national grievance against HHS, this latest one for its bad faith bargaining tactics during the FSIP-ordered negotiations with a mediator. NTEU’s goal is to have an arbitrator order HHS to return to the table and bargain in good faith with NTEU for a fair contract.
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