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FLRA’s DuBester Speaks!

by Bob Gilson |

In a recent negotiability dispute involving the Social Security Administration, the union made proposals involving an office relocation. One of them was “Polycarbonate shield will be installed at each of the four Reception Station windows.”

The Agency made an internal security practices argument. Management determined one transparent barrier wall behind members of the public who are being served at the front counter would be sufficient, and that adding additional windows would frustrate on-site security guard’s ability to monitor and/or respond to emerging security incidents.  Additionally, management argued that it has already taken the following security measures for employees working at the reception windows:

(1) hiring an armed security guard and posting the guard in the reception area,

(2) requiring the guard to search individuals’ bags before they enter the building,

(3) locking doors to employees’ areas,

(4) installing deep counters and heavy roll-down shutters at each reception window,

(5) placing duress alarms at reception windows and interview stations,

(6) creating systems “to warn and alert employees when they are presented with a visitor who has acted out in the past,” and (7) providing employees with, among other things, tissues, hand sanitizer, N-95 respirator masks, and free influenza vaccines. 

Chairman Pope, whose policy has been, “find out what the unions want and give it to them,” agreed with minority Member Beck that the proposal violated management’s right to determine internal security.

Member Ernest DuBester rarely dissents but in each case I could find, including this one, does so when Chairman Pope obviously, in his view, has violated her own policy and somehow mistakenly ruled for an Agency.  DuBester, whose career has involved being a “neutral,” working for a union or teaching, gathered up his considerable expertise in polycarbonate shielding and agency internal security requirements to decide that, indeed, this was a negotiable proposal because, according to his expert opinion, “Proposal 4’s burden on management rights is slight.  (My emphasis) Because the security guards are positioned on the public’s side of the shields, either in the reception area or the waiting area, the shields would have no effect whatsoever on the guards’ ability to monitor and/or respond to emerging security incidents, including those involving threatening behavior by a member of the public at a reception station.”

I guess no one told him when he got the job that slight violations of the labor law are still violations. It’s OK, though. The unions will surely hire him as a “neutral”, educator or arbitrator (if they can) when his term is up whether he understands the law or not as long as he continues to read it in their favor.

The other dissents I could find involved arbitration awards that the other members overturned in whole or part.  In each, a perceived union benefit was denied and each time, Mr. DuBester would have given the union the benefit and not reversed the arbitrator. You can read them for yourself:

  • 65 FLRA No. 179   CBP and NTEU
  • 65 FLRA No. 207   Prisons and SFGE
  • 66 FLRA No.15   SSA and AFGE

The Free Dictionary describes a “neutral” as “not aligned with, supporting, or favoring either side in a war, dispute, or contest.”  It defines a “partisan” as “a fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.” Is it possible Mr. DuBester got these definitions mixed up in school and no one has since set him straight? You decide.

As always, any opinion you discern from the above is my responsibility alone.

Based on discussions with some Agencies, and sponsored by RGS, I and some colleagues plan to offer a “Practitioner’s Course in Labor Relations” and a “Practitioner’s Course in Employee Relations” focusing on advising managers, using proven tools to enhance case management, and matters of interest to the specialist, advocate or attorney with a basic grounding in these programs. We plan to offer these around the country and in D.C. If you have an interest in learning more, please let me know. You can do so using the “contact” link at the bottom of this article. RGS has also given us the go ahead to do an update for practitioners this spring in the D.C. area. I’ll follow up with more information as arrangements firm up.

© 2014 Robert J. Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert J. Gilson.

About the Author

Photo of Bob Gilson

Bob Gilson

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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