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Federal employee unions have said that agencies are not being fully responsive to the Biden administration’s directives to roll back Trump administration bargaining policies, in particular citing issues related to returning employees from telework in the time ahead as pandemic-related restrictions are eased.

President Biden in his early days repealed his predecessor’s executive order that had told agencies to restrict the scope of negotiations; more recent guidance from OPM further instructed agencies to drop any positions they had taken due to the Trump orders in ongoing negotiations and to renegotiate contract provisions currently in place that reflected the Trump orders.


Unions have said the implementing guidance was important because in the nearly two months since Biden’s order “not all agencies have acted promptly” to comply with it, in the words of the AFGE union. The NFFE union similarly said that “many agencies have hesitated to take the necessary steps to undo the damage to our contracts and our relationships, citing the fact they were told to wait for more guidance. The wait is now over.”

The NTEU union has made similar comments and added in a new position paper that “some agencies are still operating under contracts imposed on workers based on the [Trump orders] and are continuing to fight legal challenges brought by unions.”

In addition to lifting the prior restrictions, the Biden order and guidance instructed agencies to bargain on certain topics that are negotiable at management’s discretion under federal labor law, including some aspects of the assignment of employees.

Among the policies that unions want to put on the table are alternative work schedules, telework and other scheduling issues as agencies call back more employees to their regular worksites. Unions are also pushing on topics such as realignment of workspaces, testing of employees, provision of personal protective equipment, and more.

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