Washington D.C. – The Department of Health and Human Services violated federal labor law when it unilaterally imposed an incomplete contract on its workforce, according to an arbitrator who upheld the unfair labor practice charge filed by the National Treasury Employees Union.
The decision from the neutral arbitrator, dated Dec. 12 and delivered recently to NTEU, confirms the union’s position that HHS illegally implemented one-sided contract terms that were not part of a complete, mutual agreement between the agency and the union.
“Once again, NTEU has fought successfully to uphold the law and force HHS leadership to properly negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “This is an important victory for federal employees who simply want their employers to follow basic labor law and respect their right to have a strong voice in the workplace.”
According to the arbitrator, the agency violated the law and committed a “clear and patent breach” of the existing 2010 collective bargaining agreement by imposing 19 new contract articles proposed by management while negotiations on six others were still ongoing. The regressive and unfair provisions were rubber-stamped by administration appointees on the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) in an April 1 decision and implemented soon after by agency management, costing employees valuable rights and benefits.
However, as NTEU argued and the arbitrator agreed, the FSIP decision does not cover all contract provisions and therefore leaves the full 2010 collective bargaining agreement in effect until a properly negotiated and complete agreement is approved by both sides.
“NTEU has said all along that agency management cannot force employees to work under a one-sided, partial edict that takes away important rights and benefits,” Reardon said. “It has been a long, slow process but we intend to hold HHS accountable for their bad faith bargaining, illegal short cuts, and overall disrespect for the collective bargaining process.”
The arbitrator ruled in the union’s favor but chose to give NTEU and HHS 90 days to agree on a remedy for the harm done to frontline employees by implementing the provisions contained in the FSIP decision.
NTEU filed the grievance in April 2019 after HHS announced that it would unilaterally impose the 21 articles contained in the FSIP decision, including cuts to telework and difficult new hurdles for employees to take the annual leave they have rightfully earned. The arbitrator conducted a hearing in the case in September and issued his decision in December.
NTEU won another grievance against HHS last fall when an arbitrator ruled that management had bargained in bad faith and prematurely declared an impasse in the negotiations.
“HHS is fast running out of excuses to do the right thing and return to the bargaining table where they can meet with employees, face to face, and negotiate a fair agreement that is in the best interest of the employees, the agency and the taxpayer,” Reardon said.
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.