Washington D.C. – A neutral arbitrator has ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services engaged in unfair labor practices by bargaining a new contract in bad faith and prematurely declaring impasse in the negotiations, a major victory for the National Treasury Employees Union and the frontline employees of HHS.
NTEU’s grievance over HHS’ illegal bargaining was heard by the arbitrator in February and his 97-page decision was delivered to NTEU on Thursday.
“HHS management cannot run roughshod over its own workforce and expect to get away with it,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “This decision is a strong repudiation of the shameful tactics that HHS negotiators used in their rush to disenfranchise HHS frontline workers, gut their contract and strip them of their rights and benefits.”
The decision means that HHS must now cease and desist from all bad faith bargaining, post a notice in the workplace about its unfair labor practices, and return to good faith negotiations with NTEU.
HHS was found to have repeatedly broken the law by eliminating and then refusing to bargain over contract articles that are mandatory bargaining subjects and declaring the parties to be at impasse without any true effort to bargain. The arbitrator’s order provides extensive details about how the agency’s negotiators undermined the process at nearly every turn.
NTEU filed the bad faith bargaining grievance in August of 2018.
“This has been a long fight but now the administration is officially on notice that federal employees’ legal rights to bargain collectively will be protected, and sending anti-labor and anti-union political ideologues to the table is a bad idea,” Reardon said. “This is a strong message to any other agencies that are thinking about using similar tactics: Don’t do it.”
If HHS appeals the arbitrator’s decision, then the Federal Service Impasses Panel’s imposition of 21 articles on the HHS workforce remains in place during the appeal. Otherwise, the FSIP order – which is a direct result of the agency’s illegal actions – would be immediately invalidated and HHS employees would go back to the original collective bargaining agreement until a complete and legally negotiated successor is approved by NTEU and HHS.
“We represent about 14,000 HHS employees around the country who are committed to public health, and they deserve a contract that gives them a meaningful voice in the workplace,” Reardon said. “We are eager to get back to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair agreement that will restore a more normal labor-management relationship and ensure the success of the agency in meeting its mission.”
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.