Resources for HHS Employees
HHS is implementing the FSIP decision but that doesn’t mean employees are at the complete mercy of management. Below are guides that outline the agency’s ongoing obligations and provide tips for employees to secure fair treatment. More guides will be posted soon on topics like telework and leave.
Win for Employee Rights
Arbitrator Orders HHS to Stop Implementing Illegal Contract Provisions
Back in 2019, NTEU won an arbitration decision rebuking HHS’ illegal bargaining tactics and supporting the union’s view that HHS had no legal right to impose a partial collective bargaining agreement. In sustaining NTEU's grievance, an arbitrator found that HHS illegally imposed a Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) order while contract negotiations were ongoing.
Now an arbitrator has issued a remedial award granting many of NTEU’s requests. This is great news for employee rights. In his award, the arbitrator directs HHS to stop implementing the April 2019 FSIP order imposing 19 contract articles, including provisions gutting telework and making it harder for employees to take sick leave and time off around the holidays.
The award also restores telework schedules for ACF and SAMHSA employees to those in effect before the April 2019 order.
In addition, HHS has been ordered to recalculate employee awards for 2019 and subsequent years based on the 2010 contract and issue pay back pay with interest to those who were improperly denied awards or due higher amounts. If the recalculations reflect overpayment of awards to any employees, HHS may elect to collect the overpayment.
NTEU and HHS have 30 days in which to file an appeal. NTEU is carefully reviewing the award to determine if the union should pursue additional remedies for employees harmed by the agency’s move to illegally impose a contract.
In NTEU’s view, this award parrots what HHS must already do under President Biden’s EO 14003: set aside its earlier efforts to impose harmful contract articles, return in full to the existing contract and agree to meet at the bargaining table to fairly and fully negotiate a new contract. We will keep you updated on this important development.
Reardon Seeks Positive Relationship with Sec. Becerra
National President Tony Reardon congratulated HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on his confirmation and asked for a meeting to get the relationship off to a positive start.
“Our partnership with management is of great importance to me and the employees NTEU represents,” Reardon wrote in a letter sent Monday. “Unfortunately, the relationship between the Department and NTEU has been significantly damaged over the past few years, and even in this new administration.”
Reardon referenced the two unanswered letters to the Acting HHS Secretary urging him to comply with President Biden’s executive order on collective bargaining and now the arbitrator’s remedy, restore the terms of the 2010 contract (including telework) and negotiate a new contract in good faith.
“After four years of harsh, anti-labor actions by HHS leadership, I am anxious and optimistic for a new start,” Reardon wrote.
NTEU’s Battle for HHS Employee Rights Makes News
At last week’s Legislative Grassroots Event, National President Tony Reardon convened a media briefing updating reporters on federal employee issues, including NTEU’s ongoing fight to get HHS back to the bargaining table. Reardon discussed HHS’ sluggish response in complying with President Biden’s executive order rescinding the three May 2018 orders from his predecessor. You can read what he had to say in these Federal News Network and GovExec articles.
Stimulus Bill Includes Aid for Federal Employees, FDA Funding Boost
The American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed yesterday, includes NTEU-supported language to assist federal employees by providing emergency paid leave for pandemic-related issues.
The bill gives federal employees up to 15 weeks of emergency leave if they are unable to work for reasons related to the pandemic. The paid leave can be used for those who have contracted COVID-19 or are required to quarantine because of possible exposure. It can also be used if their normal childcare provider is unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons, or time off for obtaining the vaccine. This benefit is capped at $1,400 per week and expires on Sept. 30.
NTEU supported this language throughout the process and successfully worked to build opposition to efforts to strip the provisions out of the legislation.
The new law also ensures workers’ compensation eligibility for federal employees diagnosed with COVID-19 whose duties require contact with others or other risks of exposure to the virus.
Another NTEU-backed provision provides the Food and Drug Administration with $500 million in additional funding for its work on vaccines and other pandemic-related responsibilities.
The Future of Telework
With the ever-growing number of Americans being vaccinated and talk of workplaces reopening, you may be wondering when FDA and HHS employees will be told to “return to work” and, along with that, what your telework options will be. Although we have had no discussions with the agency about “reopening," telework is directly linked to the executive order issued by President Biden a month ago.
Under that order, any contract provisions or bargaining proposals that implement the provisions of the 2018 EOs must be immediately set aside and renegotiated in good faith. That includes HHS’ illegal implementation (as already deemed by an arbitrator) of a impasse panel’s order allowing HHS to limit telework to one day per week. That panel has now resigned, at President Biden’s request.
Since President’s Biden order, NTEU has written not one—but two—letters to Acting Secretary Norris Cochran urging him to comply with the order, restore the terms of our 2010 contract (including telework) and a negotiate a new contract in good faith. Acting Secretary Cochran’s response: crickets.
He may be in that chair temporarily but that is no excuse for not displaying the leadership the position requires. We need to take the first step toward repairing the labor management relationship and silence doesn’t get us there.
Be assured that this is not the last of the steps NTEU will be taking to get HHS back to the table. Acting Secretary Cochran must immediately comply with the executive order and the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) guidance implementing it.
When HHS complies, as they must, one of NTEU’s top priorities will be to bargain an expanded telework program that reflects what HHS employees across Op-Divs have proven throughout the pandemic; you don’t need to be in an office to successfully accomplish your agency missions.
As the last few years have demonstrated, NTEU will not yield in our ongoing fight for your rights.
Guide to Renewing Your Telework Schedule - Language imposed by the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) requires HHS employees to renew their telework agreement every six months. NTEU has put together some guidance for HHS employees on renewing, and what to do if your request is denied.
Guide to Performance Plans (One-Pager) - Despite HHS’ efforts to eliminate contract language in this area, management doesn't have carte blanche. This guide explains the agency's obligation to establish and communicate performance standards to employees before they may be held accountable for the standards.
Guide to Your Performance Appraisal (One-Pager) - Dissatisfied with your performance appraisal rating? This guide outlines basic rules the agency must follow and your right to challenge an unfair rating.
Guide to Managing Performance During the Appraisal Period (One-Pager) - This guide outlines employees’ entitlement to performance feedback and provides tips to help ensure fair ratings at the end of the rating period.