Notes from the Second National Labor-Management Council Meeting

Highlights from the Council meeting include approval of 24 implementation plans and return of 21. Permissive issue bargaining is apparently still a hot issue, and FLRA’s General Counsel and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will offer joint training on the Executive order.

The following is not my work and credit goes to the folks who recorded this and passed it on for all of us who aren’t either in DC or privy to this information. Many thanks. According to the notetakers, while the meeting was open to the public, the Council did not make public any of the handouts. As such, there were times when it was a bit more challenging to keep accurate minutes.

National Labor-Management Relations Council Meeting

Second Meeting

April 7, 2010

Preliminary Matters

Mr. Berry, Director of OPM, began by introducing Ms. Patricia Newhouse as the new head of the Federal Managers’ Association.   The minutes of the previous meeting were approved. To date, they have not been posted on the National Council web site,

Implementation Plans

A subgroup (representatives of AFGE, NAGE, Homeland Security and VA) was established to review the various implementation plans. Forty-seven plans were received and 45 were reviewed. (Two came in late.) Some agencies had not submitted plans as it was unclear whether the Executive Order applied to them, e.g., The Smithsonian. They will be contacted by OPM and OMB to see if they would like to participate on a voluntary basis.
Of the 45 plans reviewed, 24 were approved and 21 were not certified as they did not meet the E.O. guidelines. Some of the larger agencies that did not appear to be approved were DoD, EEOC, DoJ, and DoL. (I’m not 100% sure on some of these as no handouts were provided.) Lack of union consultation was the major reason for the agency plans not being certified.
Other reasons plans were not certified include failing to adequately address how baseline assessments would be conducted; labor-management forums not addressed, and insufficient explanation regarding agency funding. Plans not certified will have to be revised and resubmitted within 10 days. The VA noted that those implementation plans that were not certified needed only minor changes to become certified and those not certified will be given specific guidance.
Best practices will be posted on the Council’s website (though no date was given). Some of the best practices regarding the baseline were having the baseline developed by an independent third party; establishing focus groups and surveys regarding knowledge of labor relations; and specific timelines.
Other best practices were joint training, focusing on the importance of communications; and allowing duty time instead of official time for union participants.
A separate working group is being established to address having separate forums for individual unions. Agency representatives are DoD, VA and Social Security. AFGE, NFFE, and NAGE will be the union representatives. AFGE has voiced strong support for having a separate forum at the agency level for its union. (Note that the E.O. provides for councils at the level of recognition, as such, AFGE has a valid argument for separate councils at those levels. Notwithstanding, at individual installations, the parties may jointly agree to larger, more inclusive councils.)
The Council will communicate the results of its implementation plan review to the agencies. Further, it encouraged all agencies to start their forums even if their plans had not yet been certified. They also recommended follow up reviews to ensure the parties were implementing their plans.
AFGE noted that even the approved plans are not fully fleshed out and that they can be further developed.
The workgroup recommendations were approved.

Permissive Bargaining

Only one of the submitted plans specifically indicated that it would be a pilot site for (b)(1) permissive bargaining. The co-chairs stated that more volunteers were needed and that if they were not forthcoming, they would be more active in seeking volunteers. NTEU noted that some parties are active in discussing the scope of a (b)(1) bargaining pilot. The Senior Executive Association (SEA) voiced concern that it will be difficult to make recommendations to the President if there is no uniformity in the (b)(1) pilots. Further, the pilots need to get started as soon as possible so that good data can be obtained. The Teamsters noted that it doesn’t want to hear the “excuse” of national security as a reason not to engage in a (b)(1) pilot. During the discussion, it was agreed that an entire agency did not have to enter into a pilot, subcomponents could be pilots.   OPM noted that launching (b)(1) pilots will be difficult, be we need help from everyone here to get the pilots started. The issue of (b)(1) pilots will be discussed at the next Council meeting on May 5th.


OPM stated that metrics were approved last meeting, but there was still an issue to be resolved – whether grievances, ULPs, etc. should be included. SEA prepared a paper on this issue. It discussed considering complaint numbers. SEA noted that complaints don’t give a full picture, but they do provide information worth considering.   AFGE objected to considering complaints noting that a number of issues raised in complaints were unrelated to the work of a council. Additionally, grievances are typically a reaction to some action taken, or not taken, by management. The other unions agreed. It was noted that pre-decisional involvement should reduce the number of grievances and, especially ULPs as ULPs are most often filed for failing to provide advance notice of changes to unions. Further, forums will not likely engage in discussing individual grievances. FEA (the teacher’s union) noted that it was the content of the grievances that were important, not the numbers.
The FEA sought to include a metric on how early unions are brought into pre-decisional discussions. It also wanted to include how often the head of an agency meets with the head of the union to resolve problems. (It did not appear that these were adopted.)
SEA again brought up the need for some type of uniformity noting that without it, it will be difficult to develop recommendations to the President. OMB questioned whether there was a need for a few people to flesh out the metrics, though it was worried about a one size fits all approach. It seemed there was agreement to allow each partnership to flesh out their own metrics, as long as they were in line with the overall metric categories developed by the Council. (A copy of the briefing charts on metrics is on the Council web site under the February 26 Meetings link.)
IFPTE noted that the public has a low opinion of Federal employees. It believes that these forums can help improve that image by showing the successes of the workforce. OPM stated that the metrics will go a long way in that regard. The more we can show quality/cost savings, the more the public will appreciate the service of the Federal workforce.


The FLRA General Counsel and FMCS gave an overview on the new FLRA/FMCS Joint Training regarding implementation of the E.O.. There are 175 mediators ready, willing and able to conduct training on the forums. The training requires the joint participation of both the agency and labor representatives and is limited to 18 two-person labor & management teams. Each session will be two days; the first day focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of the E.O. and the second on forum design, skills building, Interest based bargaining, etc. The first day will be presented by the OGC and the second by FMCS. Classes begin in May. Current information is on the FLRA web site. This is just the initial offering with more training to come.

Comments from the Floor

At the end of the meeting, the public was invited to comment. A representative from IBEW stated the union raised concerns to the White House during the formulation of the E.O. that if (b)(1) bargaining was not mandated, agencies wouldn’t do it. He stated that If there weren’t more volunteers, the union will go back to the President to have him change the E.O. to mandate (b)(1) bargaining. The AFGE President at OPM noted that under the previous E.O. on partnerships, the parties resolved issues informally. The stewards were change agents. Someone from EPA promoted the use of ADR and asked how much emphasis the Council will place on ADR.
I’ll make no comments in this report so, for once, I don’t have to do my usual disclaimer.

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.