FLRA/FMCS Pilot Program to Speed Up Labor Negotiations

An agreement between FLRA and FMCS is an attempt to speed up federal labor negotiations by focusing on negotiability appeals.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA or Authority) and the Federal
Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) have announced an arrangement for working together to resolve negotiability appeals.

The FLRA has the authority to decide whether a topic is a proper one for an agency and a union to negotiate under the restrictions of the Civil Service Reform Act. Typically, when this arises, a union makes a proposal and the agency takes a position that the subject is excluded based on the requirement of the labor relations statute. The issue is decided in a case that goes before the FLRA.

The FMCS is a small federal agency that works to resolve disagreements between unions and companies or unions and a federal agency. It does not normally resolve negotiability questions but it works with unions and agencies (and in the private sector) to work at find a solution to a dispute.

In effect, under the pilot program being created by the two agencies, the expertise of FMCS mediators would be used in resolving negotiability issues before they are considered by the FLRA for a decision.

Under the pilot program, the FLRA would train a group of FMCS mediators on issues often arising in negotiability appeals. The FLRA could refer the case to the FMCS to attempt to resolve the issue or the parties in a dispute could request FMCS assistance.

When referring a negotiability appeal to the FMCS, the Authority will advise the parties it is holding the case in abeyance and will defer further processing.

The new negotiability-appeal-mediation process would probably take between 30 and 60 days. If the disagreement is resolved, FMCS would request the parties notify the FLRA in writing to enable dismissing negotiability appeal.

If the entire dispute on negotiability is not resolved, the Authority would resume processing the negotiability appeal.

FLRA Chairman Colleen Duffy Kiko expressed optimism that the process would speed up labor negotiations. In a press release, she stated, “The Authority is committed to fulfilling our statutory obligation to expedite negotiability appeals to the extent practicable and to resolving these matters as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to advance the process of collective bargaining.”

FMCS Director Nominee Richard Giacolone is also confident the pilot program will help speed up negotiations in the federal sector. He stated, “I am confident that our expert mediators will quickly make a real difference in resolving disputes among the parties appearing before the Authority. ”

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47