Washington D.C. – The National Treasury Employees Union today urged a federal appeals court to reject a 2020 decision from the Federal Labor Relations Authority that broke with longstanding precedent and gave agency management an unfair advantage in contract negotiations.
“The new FLRA policy wrongly opens the door for agencies to unilaterally impose workplace rules that conflict with the existing collective bargaining agreement just because the parties are in the middle of negotiating a new contract,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “That is contrary to federal sector labor law, which is why we were eager to present our case to the court today.”
The case, NTEU v. FLRA, #20-1400, was heard today by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and a ruling is expected by the end of the year.
The three-person FLRA, with two members appointed by the previous administration, issued a policy statement on Sept. 30, 2020, in response to a request from the Department of Agriculture. In that 2-1 decision, the FLRA altered the interpretation of “continuance” provisions in federal contracts by allowing agencies to implement new rules for their workforces, even though the union and the agency had already agreed that the existing contract would remain in effect until a new contract was signed.
“The FLRA concluded – for the first time – that when a continuance provision is in effect, the agency may conduct agency head review on the underlying agreement,” Reardon said. “That creates a giant loophole for agencies to impose regulations on workers without their input, which flies in the face of what Congress intended when it wrote the law on labor relations in the federal sector and would unnecessarily disrupt ongoing contract negotiations.”
The lone member of the FLRA who voted against the policy guidance, Ernest DuBester, is now the chairman of the FLRA.
The NTEU case was consolidated with challenges brought by two other federal sector unions against the same FLRA decision and is one of several pending cases challenging FLRA decisions made over the past few years.
NTEU represents employees in 34 federal agencies and departments.