Washington D.C. – The Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to impose an unfair, one-sided edict on its frontline employees that will disrupt the workplace and further degrade labor-management relations in the federal government.
The agency informed the National Treasury Employees Union of its intent to put the new terms in place by May 2, prompting the union to file its fifth national grievance over the agency’s sham bargaining and illegal shortcuts.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. We tried to negotiate a contract with HHS but their proposals were so retrograde that it was difficult to make progress. At one point, the HHS bargaining team refused to even be in the same room with their own employees,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “And now we see the end result: A so-called contract that shifts the labor-management balance strongly toward management, making it harder for employees to enforce their rights in the workplace.”
The Federal Service Impasses Panel on April 1 issued a decision to implement 23 contract articles and sent six other articles back to the bargaining table. NTEU at the time argued that HHS prematurely rushed the issue to impasse. Now, the union asserts it is illegal to impose an incomplete contract while six articles remain outstanding, including the article covering the contract’s duration.
“Secretary Alex Azar and his negotiating team intentionally sabotaged bargaining in order to get to the administration-friendly FSIP, and NTEU intends to fight the premature implementation of the FSIP’s decision,” Reardon said.
NTEU has warned employees that managers may feel empowered to dramatically scale back telework and alternative work schedules or deny more leave requests. NTEU would consider those a violation of the existing collective bargaining agreement, which should remain in effect, and will pursue legal challenges to each and every violation.
“HHS employees want to do their jobs, promoting public health, inspecting food and medicine and managing the country’s health programs, and they shouldn’t have to wonder if their workplace rights and benefits are in jeopardy,” Reardon said. “To be clear, NTEU retains the ability to help employees challenge abuses of management discretion, violations of federal law including prohibited personnel practices, discrimination and attacks on the merit system principles.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments, including the Food and Drug Administration, 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.
NOTE: A copy of the FSIP decision and other material is available HERE.