COMPENSATION INCREASES UNIONS CAN BARGAIN(Pt.1)

There are over two dozen ways unions can negotiate to put extra cash in members’ pockets. That is great news for employees during these times of wage freezes and yet another reason they should support their union. Here is our list of compensation issues that FLRA has already held to be negotiable.  In Part 2 we will review those that appear negotiable given FLRA precedent, but which the Authority has not yet squarely addressed.

SALARY– While employees under the GS system have their salaries set by that law, many federal employees not covered by that salary system. Where law doesn’t specify an employee’s salary (or the law gives the employer discretion to set it) unions can often negotiate salaries. That concept was well-stated in NTEU, 62 FLRA 432 (2008), “Upon passage of the Act in January 2002, ‘[r]ates of basic pay’ could be ‘set and adjusted’ by the SEC ‘without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 or subchapter III of chapter 53″ of 5 U.S. Code. 5 U.S.C. § 4802(c). By virtue of this provision, the SEC was no longer bound by the classification rules applicable to most Federal agencies or by the General Schedule pay rates, and it could give within-grade and quality step increases to employees without regard to the restrictions of 5 U.S.C. §§ 5335 and 5336. “ NTEU now bargains salaries in five federal agencies thanks to this principle, and other unions have put more than a dozen salary disputes before the FSIP for a decision.

CAREER LADDER PROMOTIONS– Unions cannot bargain to force management to fill a vacant job, but under certain circumstances they can require that employees be promoted. In NFFE, 39 FLRA 976 (1991), FLRA approved negotiations over many of the criteria for a career ladder promotion, “Provision 1 concerns career ladder promotions. As worded and explained by the Union, the provision defines the criterion for determining when an employee has the ‘potential’ for performing ‘at the next higher level” within the career ladder.’ That is, under the provision, if an employee receives a fully satisfactory performance rating, the employee has demonstrated the ability to perform at the next higher level for purposes of making a career-ladder promotion…..Interpreted in this manner, we find that the provision concerns only that aspect of management’s decision to grant a career-ladder promotion which involves some assessment of an employee’s ability to perform at the next higher level of the career-ladder.”

TEMPORARY PROMOTIONS– Although union’s generally cannot negotiate over the grade of assigned duties, they can insist that management temporarily promote an employee to the grade of the duties it has assigned him/her when management has classified those duties at a higher grade and at least 25% of the employees work time is spent doing those higher graded duties. Check out NTEU, 63 FLRA 567 (2009).

MANDATORY PERFORMANCE AWARDS– Unions can demand that the funding for bargaining unit employees equal that set aside for non-unit agency employees. (AFGE, 31 FLRA 921 (1988)) They can also set the amount of an award at each performance level (NTEU, 30 FLRA 1219 (1988) and NTEU, 30 F.3d 1510 (1994)). The union can even bargain to give employees the right to choose between a lump sum cash payment of any reasonable amount and a Quality Step increase whenever the agency decides to offer the employee a QSI. (NTEU, 52 FLRA 1265 (1997)) But unless given statutory authority waiving government-wide regulations, unions cannot negotiate when someone must be given a QSI.

GAINSHARING– Union can bargain to establish a gainsharing program which provides employees a share of the savings they generate by doing more work than required. (NAGE, 48 FLRA 1198 (1993))

SUGGESTION AWARDS– Ever wonder how management decides how much to give an employee when it accepts her suggestion? The answer is easy, namely, whatever management wants to give the employee. But a union can go negotiate a fixed or even sliding scale of cash for the employee whose suggestion has been accepted. (NTEU, 14 FLRA 598 (1994) and AFGE, 21 FLRA 90 (1996))

STIPENDS– A collective bargaining agreement can obligate management to not only pay public transportation and carpooling pre-tax stipends to employees, but also set the amount. (NFFE, 49 FLRA 923 (1994)). Child care stipends would seem to be negotiable under the same concept. FLRA has not yet directly said that about child care, but the Panel has already resolved disputes over child care stipends. See AFGE, 11 FSIP 115 (2011)

LEAVE ADVANCES – Unions can bargain to get employees the right to advances of annual and sick leave so long as the employees have to meet the conditions listed in regulations. This could get an employee an extra 30 days of salary, which can be a very big help during an FMLA absence. NTEU, 53 FLRA 539 (1997)

TUITION REIMBURSEMENT– Labor contracts can require that management reimburse employees for educational courses they take. (OEA, 29 FLRA No. 49 (1987))

UNIFORM ALLOWANCE– If management requires employees to wear uniforms, FLRA has approved unions negotiating over how much the agency will pay to help employees purchase them and maintain them. (AFSCME, 23 FLRA 204 (1996) and NTEU, 35 FLRA 3 (1990))

FOOD SERVICES– If the agency provides or controls the food services available to employees, FLRA allows the union to bargain prices and related matters that are otherwise in the discretion of the agency. (NAGE, 47 FLRA 613 (1993) and AFGE 27 FLRA 11 (1987))

PARKING– The negotiability of employee parking has been bounced all around over the years. The following excerpt from AFGE, 61 FLRA 654 (2006) captures its current views, “. . . the Authority has held that an agency is required to bargain over the substance of changes in employee parking, as well as their impact and implementation. DOL, 44 FLRA at 994-95. Specifically, the Authority recently found that where an agency has leased parking spaces through the GSA, proposals requiring management to subsidize employee parking costs are within the duty to bargain. See AFGE, Local 12, 61 FLRA 209, 215 (2002); see also United States Dep’t of Transportation, FAA, Northwest Mountain Region, Renton, Wash., 55 FLRA 293, 299 (1999). Here, it is undisputed that the Agency has leased parking spaces from GSA for employees for many years.”

Of course, the precise answer as to whether these precdents apply in your situation will depend upon what the statutes and regulations applicable to your specific agency. For example, non-appropriated fund, FIRREA, medical professionals, and grandfathered 704 employees generally have even more rights to bargaining compensation than described above.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.

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