Despite opposition from federal employee unions and from some members of Congress, the FLRA has said it is going ahead with its plan to close two regional offices, starting with the closing of the Dallas office on Friday (September 21), with the closing of the Boston office to follow in November.
New unfair labor practice charges and other cases arising from the states under the Dallas office are to be sent to either the Atlanta or Denver offices and cases currently pending at the Dallas office will be reassigned to one of them.
The FLRA situation has been held up as a kind of test case for consolidations under the administration’s government reorganization plan, although on a smaller scale. After the agency announced plans to close those offices, leaving five remaining, in its budgetary proposal early in the year, a bipartisan group of senators questioned the move and the issue arose in House hearings as well. Federal employee unions also oppose closing FLRA offices.
However, the agency replied that a decrease in unfair labor practice complaints and other work, and said that only one position—in the SES—would be eliminated and that all other affected employees would be offered jobs in other regions or at headquarters. It also argued that language in a fiscal 2018 funding bill restricting agency reorganizations did not apply because “the reorganization is not cutting any staff or reducing mission-related funding in any way” but merely shifting work among existing offices.
In an unusual move, one of the three members of the FLRA’s governing board wrote a dissent to the announcement in the Federal Register, saying that “now is the worst time to downsize further a dispute resolution agency like the FLRA . . . given the current effort to streamline federal government agencies, there is very likely to be an increase in the number of grievances and labor-management disputes.”