The Federal Service Impasses Panel, an arm of the FLRA that issues opinions on bargaining deadlocks, has ratified all the decisions it has issued in the last two years, the latest step designed to overcome legal objections unions have been raising regarding the FSIP actions.
Ratifying the decisions was designed “to remove any doubt regarding the constitutionality of its structure and the validity of its decisions,” an announcement said.
That follows a memo from President Trump authorizing the head of the FLRA to remove members of the panel, which in recent times has issued some rulings that unions believe severely undercuts their role in the federal workplace on alternative work schedules, telework and other matters.
As part of their challenges to those rulings, the unions have contended that the FSIP board itself was improperly constituted and that the FSIP members should be subject to Senate confirmation and not direct appointment by the White House. As part of that argument they pointed to a requirement in law that members can be removed only by the President, typically a feature of positions in which Senate confirmation is required.
Meanwhile, the AFGE union has said that the EPA has agreed to return to the bargaining table as part of a settlement in an unfair labor practice charge the union had filed, a charge that in turn will be dropped. An FLRA investigator had determined that there was cause to believe that the agency had violated its bargaining obligations by ending negotiations and unilaterally imposing changes to policies including telework, work scheduling, provision of office space to union representatives, and more. (However, since the FLRA general counsel’s position is vacant, there was no formal finding of a violation that could be referred to an FLRA law judge and then potentially to its governing board.)
The agreement follows separate letters from almost all Democrats in the House and Senate urging that the EPA resume bargaining.