Washington D.C. – The Federal Labor Relations Authority has unanimously upheld an arbitrator’s 2019 ruling in favor of the National Treasury Employees Union, which should be the final word in what was a contentious and protracted labor-management battle at the Department of Health and Human Services during the previous administration.
“We always believed the law was on our side and that HHS’ actions would definitively be ruled improper, and that day has finally come,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “Although the change in administration last year did much to repair the damaged relationship between the union and the agency, it is gratifying to now have a decisive rejection of HHS’s actions in implementing contract articles while the agreement was still being negotiated. This should deter similar actions by any agency in the future.”
In the HHS case, a neutral arbitrator agreed with NTEU that the agency in 2019 wrongly implemented one-sided contract terms that were not part of a complete, mutual agreement between the agency and the union, as required. 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 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 and implemented soon after by agency management, costing employees valuable rights and benefits.
In 2021, after the change in administration, the agency agreed to abandon that approach and go back to the 2010 collective bargaining agreement, as updated in 2014, until a new contract can be negotiated and ratified fairly. Bargaining on a new contract is underway, led by leaders from several NTEU chapters at various HHS agencies.
“The 14,000 HHS employees we represent around the country do work that is vital to public health and safety, and this new FLRA decision helps ensure that we will continue good faith negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement that gives employees the benefits and protections they deserve,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 34 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.