Daily Labor Report®

Federal Agency Labor Pacts to Be Reviewed by Administration

Nov. 20, 2018, 8:26 PM

Federal agencies have 30 days to provide copies of all collective bargaining agreements to the Office of Personnel Management. Unions representing federal employees, however, may not like what the OPM, the government’s central HR agency, has to say about the agreements after it reviews them.

That’s because the OPM likely will look to encourage agency managers to take tougher positions in future labor talks, according to Bill Wiley, president of the Federal Employment Law Training Group. OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert’s Nov. 20 memorandum to agency heads could kick off new skirmishes between the Trump administration and unions representing about 1.2 million federal workers, out of roughly 2.1 million civilian employees, he said.

“There are some crazy provisions out there” in labor agreements between agencies and their unions, Wiley told Bloomberg Law. The OPM will look at the agreements to ensure managers aren’t agreeing to “pro-employee” provisions that go beyond what’s required by the law governing federal labor relations, said Wiley, whose company trains agency managers on matters of employment law.

‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Language?

Agencies should specify when their existing labor agreements will expire, Weichert wrote in her memo. This likely means the administration wants to be ready to jump in ahead of time to ensure that agency managers negotiate new and different provisions, Wiley said. Without the administration’s involvement, some agency managers will continue agreeing to existing contract provisions rather than aggressively negotiating to limit the power of federal employee unions, he said.

But Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told Bloomberg Law that Weichert’s memo isn’t helpful.

The memo “appears to be another step to impose one-size-fits-all contract language in federal sector contracts, instead of encouraging the parties to negotiate language that addresses the unique needs and issues in the workplace. Agencies and the unions should have the flexibility to negotiate agreements, in accordance with applicable law, unencumbered by additional dictates from OPM or the administration,” he said.

The OPM and the White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Orders Still Alive, Despite Ruling

The memo is a reminder that the three federal workforce orders issued by President Donald Trump on May 25 are still alive, at least in part, despite a federal district court ruling in August that struck down significant portions. The orders made it easier to fire federal workers, required the government to review its collective bargaining agreements for cost savings, and restricted federal employees from spending more than 25 percent of their work hours on union representation matters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is currently considering the administration’s appeal of the district court ruling.

The guidance from Weichert focuses on Executive Order 13,836, calling on the government to review labor agreements for cost savings.

“Portions of EO 13836 were challenged and enjoined pending further proceedings. However, sections of EO 13836 requiring submission of collective bargaining agreements and arbitration awards were unaffected by this and remain in place,” Weichert wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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