Washington D.C. – The administration’s two-year assault on the rights of federal employees escalated when the Trump-appointed Federal Service Impasses Panel mostly rubberstamped the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to gut its contract with the National Treasury Employees Union.
“HHS Secretary Alex Azar has been railroading his own employees by refusing to negotiate with them, as required by law, and now we see the results: an illegitimate contract that Azar wants to force upon employees,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “HHS employees deserve better, which is why we will continue our fight to get the agency back to the bargaining table.”
In an April 1 decision, the Federal Service Impasses Panel sided with management on many of the unresolved issues between HHS and NTEU. However, the panel’s decision does not take immediate effect because several contract articles were not included in the FSIP decision and still must be negotiated. Therefore, HHS employees continue to operate under the existing collective bargaining agreement with NTEU.
“Fortunately, management’s plan to nearly eliminate telework and strictly curtail leave around the December holidays, just to name two of the anti-employee provisions of the FSIP decision, are on hold,” Reardon said.
NTEU sounded the alarm last year that HHS’ bargaining tactics were a sham and filed four national grievances over the corrupted process. Those grievances are in various stages of litigation and detail the numerous ways HHS sidestepped or ignored its obligation under federal law to bargain with the union in good faith and a sincere desire to reach agreement. Instead, the HHS bargaining team refused requests for information, declined to discuss bargaining proposals and incorrectly claimed impasse in order to get before the panel.
“Federal employees and Americans everywhere should be concerned about what is now clearly a pattern of an administration determined to undermine the merit-based, nonpartisan civil service in this country,” Reardon said.
Even with the HHS bargaining team sabotaging the process, there are some rights that neither HHS nor the panel could take away. For example, NTEU retains the ability to help employees challenge abuses of management discretion, violations of federal law including prohibited personnel practices, discrimination and the merit system principles.
“Frontline employees at HHS are laser focused on public health, food safety and managing this country’s most critical health programs. The last thing they need is to be worried about is losing their voice in the workplace,” Reardon said. “That is why NTEU, with the support of our allies in Congress, is working to restore a normal bargaining process that allows management and labor to reach an agreement that benefits the agency, the employees and the taxpayers.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments, including the FDA, the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Center for Health Statistics, and other important HHS programs and offices.