TALK IS OK, BUT FILING IS NECESSARY
When management does something the union disagrees with, it if fine to try to settle the matter without formally filing a grievance, bargaining demand, ULP, etc. A new FLRA decision, however, makes it crystal clear that all the well-intentioned informal settlement discussions in the world do not change the contractual or statutory deadlines for filing a formal action to protect the union or employee’s official claim. AFGE, 70 FLRA 973 (2018) If the union files the grievance, arbitration invocation, ULP, bargaining demand, etc. after the official deadline, it has waived its right to pursue the matter. In fact, if the problem arose over an employee’s claim that s/he is owed back pay, don’t be surprised if the employee files a ULP against the union to force it to give her/him the back pay out of the union treasury. Ignoring a well-known filing deadline seems like “gross negligence” to us, which is the statutory standard for making the union libel for the money the agency owes the employee. We understand the lure of an agency official telling the union rep that s/he “is sure we can work this out without a grievance,” or “needs another two weeks to look into the problem before s/he can be ready to talk.” Grant all the extensions you want, but protect the union by a) asking for an extension to file the grievance or bargaining demand, b) filing the grievance or bargaining demand “only as a technicality,” or c) getting contract language that says whenever parties enter settlement discussions it postpones contract deadlines. Check with a competent union attorney for more ideas. We omitted any reference to ULP filings because parties do not have the power to extend those deadlines no matter how well-intended they are.