HHS Walks Out of Negotiations, Refuses to Bargain New Contract

Press Release August 10, 2018

Washington D.C. – More than 5,400 employees at the Department of Health and Human Services have signed a petition protesting the agency’s refusal to negotiate a new contract and attempt to unilaterally take away basic workplace programs.

National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon delivered the petition, addressed to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, to agency headquarters this morning.

“Secretary Azar should know that his employees – the public servants at HHS and the Food and Drug Administration – are angry,” Reardon said. “The agency is no longer treating them with the professional respect they deserve and as their rightful workplace representative, NTEU is here to alert the public that their government is mistreating its own workers.”

Buoyed by the White House’s anti-employee executive orders, HHS’ so-called negotiators proposed eliminating 21 of 34 contract articles without any explanation or reasonable attempt to negotiate. After only two unusually short days of bargaining, the agency issued a take-it-or-leave-it directive and walked away from the bargaining table.

“HHS employees for years have operated under a contract that they built their lives around, providing them the right work-life balance that allowed them to continue to serve their country by keeping food and medicine safe and supporting our nation’s health care system,” Reardon said. “If the agency’s current contract proposal is implemented, I’m worried about the harm to the public.  HHS and the FDA will lose some of our most valued civil servants and the agency’s work will be negatively impacted.”  

For example, FDA’s inspections are often performed outside the hours of 8 a.m -4:30 p.m., making negotiated flexible work schedules -- which the agency seeks to eliminate -- a valuable scheduling tool.  HHS’ proposals will visit personal hardships on employees, too.  One worker has a father who had a stroke and requires dialysis.  A flexible work schedule enables the employee to help with his dad’s dialysis appointments.

NTEU has sued the administration because the executive orders violate the Civil Service Reform Act, and the union has filed three complaints against HHS for its continued bad faith bargaining, all of which are still pending.

Reardon asked to meet with Azar – a common practice between NTEU leadership and other agencies where we represent employees -- but Azar declined.

“As bad as their proposals are in these areas, this is about more than teleworking, alternative work schedules, and other common-sense recruitment and retention benefits that are commonplace in the private sector,” Reardon said. “The agency’s proposals, motivated by the executive orders, represent the larger danger this administration poses to maintaining a merit-based civil service that carries out the missions of federal agencies without partisanship or favoritism.”

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.