Is the FLRA Ready for a More Active Labor Relations Program? The Past was Dim and the Present Prospects Are Not Much Better

FLRA Member Thomas Beck addressed the Defense Labor and Employee Relations Seminar last week in Atlanta. His status report on the Agency outlined hard times both past and future.

In an address to the Defense Labor and Employee Relations Symposium in Atlanta, Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) Member Thomas Beck, who served as Chairman for four months, painted a picture of an Agency that has had a grim eight years and isn’t likely to recover soon.  Member Beck did highlight a different approach to managing the Agency which may make the decision process run smoother and cases issue faster.

Hard Times

According to the Authority’s minority member, there has been a 50% staff reduction and a 20% drop in the budget in the last eight years.  He went on to say that staff morale was very low upon his arrival but that he has been impressed with their professionalism.  He was able to negotiate a budget increase in his short term as Chairman but admits it won’t go far in making up the cuts nor go far in improving morale.

Staff Realignment

Beck says he implemented a change in the way member staffs operate.  In the past, there was a common staff which was assigned all cases and reported out to the members.  He says that now each member has a staff that reviews cases coming in and develops options for the members to consider.  He called this change a “No Brainer” claiming that the old method may have led to some confusion as to a member’s take on a particular case.

Management Changes

He said there had not been member meetings in 6 or 7 years before he got to FLRA and that there hadn’t been a management meeting in 2 or three years.  He said that both Chairman Carol Waller Pope and he have taken steps to correct this.

The Non-Labor Union Labor Union

In a carefully worded comment, Member Beck said that the “employee organization” which was “not a union” under the statute was serving a positive purpose in seeking to raise employee morale.  He did say that Chairman Pope was engaged with them in this effort.

Working the Backlog

With a backlog of 300+ cases before the Authority, some of them 5 or 6 years old, Mr. Beck said that He and Chairman Pope had met successfully to try and move some along.

Prospects for the Future 

In perhaps the greatest understatement of the labor relations year, he called the FLRA’s website, “unimpressive”.  Mr. Beck said that while electronic filing wasn’t likely anytime soon, he believed that the interpretative guidance would be returned to the site and that the research capabilities could be improved in the foreseeable future.

In response to a question about the appointment of a General Counsel, he said that, as a Republican, he wasn’t on the inside for that kind of information.

Remember that any opinions perceived above are mine and mine alone.  If I misquoted Mr. Beck, it is my fault not his.  BTW, I know a terrific person looking for a 14 or 15 or equivalent Labor &/or Employee Relations position in DC.  If you know of such a job, let me know.

About the Author

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.