Labor Relations Update: Few Agencies Volunteer on Permissive Bargaining But There are Surprises in Plan Submissions

The implementation plans for the President’s vision of Federal labor management relations are rolling in. Most tout their continuing commitment to getting along but exceedingly rare are commitments to bargain “permissive” topics. The biggest surprise is the submission by the Office of Personnel Management.

For you hermits and cave dwellers who only occasionally poke out your noses to see what’s going on, the President of the United States is looking for Agencies who will experiment with bargaining stuff they could pick or choose not to over the last 30 years.

These issues include the tools, technology and processes to be used to get work done and what skills i.e., people will be devoted to a work group, work project or shift. If you’re asking what manager in his or her right mind would volunteer to get stuck doing one of these things for a fixed period of time with no ability to adapt to circumstances unforeseen or unaddressed in the agreement, we have something in common.

The provision of law causing all the attention is found at 5 USC 7106 (b)(1) and says:

(b) Nothing in this section shall preclude any agency and any labor organization from negotiating (1) at the election of the agency, on the numbers, types, and grades of employees or positions assigned to any organizational subdivision, work project, or tour of duty, or on the technology, methods, and means of performing work…

The President’s National Council on Labor Management Relations posted the plans it received by the March 9 deadline set in Obama Executive Order 13522.

After an admittedly quick review (Reading these is like watching paint dry), some interesting patterns emerged.

  • Only one Agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said it would participate without qualification
  • Of the 43 plans posted on the Council’s site, only seven mention B(1)
  • Department of Homeland Security – Says some FEMA units already have language in contracts addressing B(1)
  • Department of Health and Human Services – Says “OPDIVs” (such as Public Health Service) may play at their discretion
  • Department of Agriculture –Surveying subordinate Agencies to see if any volunteer
  • Four specifically declined to participate in pilots
    • Broadcasting Board of Governors
    • General Services Administration
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    • U.S. Small Business Administration which wins my award for Funkiest Declination from Participating in B(1) Pilot
  • Since OPM said it was expecting some 200 plans, it appears 157 Agencies are staying under the Radar
  • The rest made no mention of B(1) in their responses to the NCLMR
    • Consumer Product Safety Commission
    • Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for DC
    • Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • Department of State
    • Environmental Protection Agency
    • Export-Import Bank of the United States
    • Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
    • Merit Systems Protection Board
    • National Labor Relations Board
    • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
    • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
    • Corporation for National and Community Service
    • Department of Commerce
    • Department of Defense
    • Department of Education
    • Department of Justice
    • Department of Labor
    • Department of the Interior
    • Department of Transportation
    • Department of Veterans Affairs
    • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    • Federal Trade Commission
    • National Credit Union Administration
    • National Endowment for the Humanities
    • National Mediation Board
    • National Science Foundation
    • National Transportation Safety Board
    • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • Peace Corps
    • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    • Railroad Retirement Board
    • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • The following, while making no mention of B(1) deserve special mention
    • Social Security Administration Wins—Most Interesting Introduction to a Plan for, with wonderful circumspection, sayings AFGE’s Gage ducked out of participation in plan development
    • National Archives and Records Administration Wins (hands down) —First Prize For Plan Design proving you can say virtually nothing while looking good.

The Biggest Surprise

The Office of Personnel Management wins: Most Surprising Lack of Mention of the B(1) Pilot in Its Plan.

I had predicted and will now concede that I was dead wrong when saying OPM had to step up to a pilot since Mr. Berry sat in the CO-Chair seat. Of course, this may prove that he’s as smart as many claim. And, of course, the decision not to play may be his own reaction as the government’s #1 human resources person to John Gages’s loud and bullying dissing of HR and LR people in the first Council meeting. Let’s hope so.

As always, any opinion is mine alone.

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.