Fedweek

The FLRA has rejected a series of requests from agencies to issue policy statements that would benefit management by effectively short-cutting the normal process of deciding what issues are subject to negotiations with unions under federal labor-management law.

Most recently, the FLRA refused a joint request by the Agriculture and Education departments to better define what “conditions of employment” are negotiable.

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Also rejected was a request by Agriculture to set a policy that a contract is deemed to expire when its term ends, even if the contract provides for a “rollover.” That would allow agencies to more readily change policies that currently are subject to negotiated agreements.

Other requests came from agencies including the VA and OPM asking the FLRA to make policy statements on topics including ground rules for negotiations; what triggers the right to negotiation on grounds that employees have been “adversely affected” by an agency action; what constitutes an impasse that can be referred to the Federal Service Impasses Panel; and if agencies must meet a union’s demand to bargain on a topic over which bargaining is required by law but is not covered by an existing contract.

The FLRA said that those issues are “more appropriately resolved by a case in controversy” — that is, when the agency is called on to decide whether specific proposals that arose in bargaining are negotiable.