Shame On HHS
The unfairly abbreviated contract negotiations between NTEU and the Department of Health and Human Services, already contentious, took a more ominous turn when the agency said it wants the power to eliminate telework altogether.
HHS proposed curtailing telework to one day a week, while permitting managers to eliminate telework altogether for employees if managers see fit. Under HHS’ proposal, this would be subject to managers’ sole discretion and could not be challenged. This would impact thousands of bargaining unit employees who, for years, have teleworked, many for several days a pay period.
When NTEU previously arbitrated grievances to expand telework options to three and four days a week, HHS never reported any widespread problems with the program or with employees performing their work remotely. Telework is a proven benefit for both agencies and employees, saving office costs, keeping cars off the road and cutting commuting expenses.
Telework is just one example of the benefits and rights that employees value deeply that HHS is putting on the chopping block, and that NTEU is fighting to save. We will provide updates on other proposals in the coming days.
Support for Employees Grows on Capitol Hill
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the latest lawmaker to voice concerns about HHS' bad faith bargaining, particularly, the agency's rush to declare impasse without engaging in meaningful negotiations.
"The dedicated federal employees at HHS and throughout the Administration deserve full access to the collective bargaining rights provided to them by federal law, including the ability to negotiate in good faith for a safe and healthy workplace, fair representation, and acceptable leave policies," Sen. Harris wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
In the new Congress, the senator will continue serving as member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal employee collective bargaining rights.
Harris urges HHS to "reverse course and bargain in good faith" in light of NTEU's legal victory invalidating key portions of anti-employee executive orders HHS relied on for its hostile bargaining tactics.
Spread the word by tweeting directly to Secretary Azar and using the hashtag #SHAMEonHHS. Here are some sample tweets, but feel free to write your own:
@SecAzar the people who provide this nation with comprehensive health services deserve a workplace that respects them #SHAMEonHHS
@SecAzar – why do you want to take away AWS, telework and transit subsidies from your own employees? #SHAMEonHHS
#SHAMEonHHS and @SecAzar for going after the rights of employees who ensure safe food, drugs and health care for Americans
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