The Chair and the Members of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (the Authority) published in the Federal Register on December 2, 1998 (Adobe Abrobat PDF File) a final rule revising the regulations concerning negotiability proceedings in Part 2424 of the Authoritys Regulations. (63 FR 66405).
The final rule is the product of extensive dialogue with union and agency representatives who have experience with negotiability proceedings. Comments were sought through focus groups and in writing at two critical points: as the revision project was begun and after proposed regulations were published.
In a joint statement, Chair Phyllis N. Segal, and Members Donald S. Wasserman and Dale Cabaniss expressed appreciation for the wide participation by agencies and unions in this project: The many comments we received helped the Authority finalize changes we believe will significantly strengthen the federal sector collective bargaining program. Close to twenty years of experience under the rules originally adopted for negotiability proceedings created the foundation for building new rules that will enable more expedited and responsive resolution of negotiability disputes.
Under the revised negotiability appeals process, unions and agencies will receive help from the FLRA to collaboratively resolve, or at least narrow, their negotiability disputes. Where resolution requires a decision by the Authority, new requirements that parties clarify the issues in dispute, and satisfy specified responsibilities to raise, support and respond to arguments, are aimed at improving the quality of the records on which decisions are based. The new process also allows resolution in a single forum of all issues raised in connection with a petition for review -- including bargaining obligation defenses previously addressed exclusively under unfair labor practice or grievance procedures.
In response to customers comments, the final rule provides for a conference to be held in all cases after a unions petition for review is filed. The purpose of this conference is to ensure that the parties have a common understanding of the meaning and effect of the proposal or provision at issue; determine whether there are any factual disputes; and discuss other relevant matters, including whether they wish to explore alternative dispute resolution. This final rule eliminates pre-filing conference requirements that had been in the proposed rule. In addition, it does not limit agencies and unions to arguments raised in the post-petition conference. Instead, agencies and unions are precluded from raising new arguments only after the filing of the statement of position, or response, respectively. Also in response to comments, April 1, 1999 was set as the effective date for the new rules, to assure sufficient time for training and other activities so that parties will understand the new procedures before they go into effect.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority is an independent agency that administers the labor- management relations program for 1.9 million federal employees worldwide, 1.1 million of whom are exclusively represented in 2,200 bargaining units. The Authority is the three- member quasi-judicial component within the FLRA that adjudicates disputes arising under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, deciding appeals regarding unfair labor practices, exceptions to grievance arbitration awards and representation petitions, and the negotiability of collective bargaining agreement proposals.
Questions regarding the Negotiability Regulations should be directed to Peter Constantine at (202) 482-6540.