This week I was in the Dallas area again for an arbitration hearing. The issue was Management’s refusal to bargain over the issues resulting from the addition of the Regional Technical Program Specialists and the Quality Assurance Auditors to the bargaining unit. The Union filed a petition with the Federal Labor Relations Authority when Management excluded these positions form the unit. The FLRA ruled they are in the unit. We demanded bargaining under the auspices of Section 42.03 A. of the CBA as we thought this qualified as a 3rd party decision that affected the CBA and/or side agreements and thus necessitated bargaining. Management disagreed so we filed an institutional grievance over the matter. We feel the Quality Assurance Auditors are performing duties that conflict with previous agreement that state that no CBU member will be required to report to management anything that could be used against an employee in a performance situation.
Management recently fired 2 employees for unacceptable performance and on one of the cases the Branch Manager overruled the supervisor’s performance evaluation of the employee based on a Regional Quality Assurance review. You may have heard about the relatively new item called the “scorecard.” This report is compiled by the Technical Program Specialists and it identifies problem areas by assignment and by supervisor and auditor. The “languishing” audit report and the “runaway” assignment report are contained in the “scorecard.” The reason your assignment is on this report may have been completely out of your control. Nonetheless, you are identified negatively.
Bob McCarthy, Jack Bradley, and Tony McElroy were involved in the Merit Systems Protection Board cases on the 2 fired employees. They report that it is almost impossible to overcome the unacceptable work aspect of a removal action. If the Supervisor, Branch Manager, and RAM all line up and say your work is unacceptable, you are probably “toast” unless Management screwed up procedurally. For instance, on 1 of the 2 fired people, he ran over budget on several closing statement assignments. The budget was 8 hours and this individual used 11 or 12 hours on each. The moral of this story is: Do not, under any circumstances, run over budget. Use the provisions of CBA Article 17. Put in a request for budget increase before you need it. Put the request in writing. Do not accept verbal assurances. Follow up a verbal assurance with a confirmation e-mail.
Next week I will be in Dallas again for the conclusion of the Computer Distribution grievance. The following week (In Dallas) is the arbitration hearing on the “Websense” issue. This is where Management uses a filter to block your access to certain web sites based on some ones idea of what should be filtered. We think they are filtering legitimate uses and this violated the terms of the “Use of Government Office Equipment” agreement.
The week of October 13th I will be in Dallas for another arbitration hearing. This is for Management’s refusal to pay Bob McCarthy’s travel and per diem expenses at a negotiability session during contract bargaining. The Federal Service Impasse Panel still has not issued a decision on our new contract. They won’t say when it will be issued.
The week of October 20th, we have another mid-term bargaining session in St. Louis. The 1st topic is computer distribution. They plan on purchasing 265 computers. We started bargaining on this during the last Dallas session the week of October 15th. Management threatened to not distribute any computers in the Central region unless we quickly reached agreement (on their terms, or course). Thus, they threatened to send the 265 computer to other regions. In the interim, Management will blame the Union for the delay in distributing computers. We want the same safeguards and procedures as we always have in such agreements. This includes 499 code time for “down time” etc.
The week of October 27th, Union officials will convene for the annual 3 day training session in Dallas. The following week (Nov 3rd), we have the next mid-term bargaining session in Dallas. Thus, I am in the Dallas area for 7 out of 8 weeks. I will try to keep my wife and son from divorcing me.
I believe Bob McCarthy, Jack Bradley, and Tony McElroy deserve a special word of thanks for the many hours they have spent on the cited cases. Many of these hours are spent after normal duty hours and thus are non compensated hours. I know they have worked until 10 or 11 at night at times. To coin a phrase, they really are “bustin ass” for the people. Bob and I worked until about 9:00 P.M. the night before yesterday’s hearing. I really appreciate their hard work. I don’t mean that they are the only Union officials who deserve praise. I just feel they deserve special praise. This is a thankless and highly stressful job at times.
I have been 100% official time since I took office as President in October 1998. Bob Wiesmann was 100% official time for many years before that. Recently Management assigned me a CAS 418 assignment. I filed an Unfair Labor Practice over the issue and the FLRA attorney was of the opinion that this was a past practice and they were about to issue a complaint. The attorney called Nick Sambaluk about this and my supervisor pulled the assignment the next day. Now, the Dallas FLRA office says the matter was “covered by” the contract and thus Management wasn’t obligated to bargain over the issue. The rational was that the CBA requires a “reasonable” amount of official time. Heretofore, Management has decided that reasonable for the Union President meant 100%. However, Management suddenly changed their mind and decided that 100% wasn’t reasonable. Since the matter is “covered by” the contract, I should have filed a grievance over the issue. This is the kind of twisted logic coming out of the FLRA these days. I will appeal the decision to the full FLRA in Washington. Meanwhile, I will file a grievance when Management assigns more audit work.
Raymond E. Downey
AFGE Local 3529