FSIP, YOU’RE FIRED! LET THE BLUE LIGHT SPECIALS BEGIN.
The President did what he does best and fired all seven members of the FSIP. It is not a surprise. His predecessors in office did the same thing. It is patronage and political control at work. The first thing to watch for is how long Trump leaves the jobs vacant because once a union petitions the Panel to resolve an impasse the agency cannot implement the proposed change, absent very limited exceptions. If Trump leaves the jobs open for a year, he will effectively be tying the hands of agency managers seeking to make changes to support the new Administration. The next thing to watch for is who he puts in the jobs and what they immediately do. We are betting it is another appointee from the Heritage Foundation like it was in the last Republican administration. In fact, we will not be surprised if it is Becky Norton Dunlop herself who led the George W. Panel to finding against unions in about 90% of the cases by our best estimate. We also expect the new Panel will stop letting parties use private neutrals to arbitrate their disputes, which has kept things moving quickly during the Obama years. Control over all cases will likely be centralized in the new Chair by requiring the full Panel vote on everything.
If unions are wise they will take advantage of sudden agency concern over how long midterm disputes could linger awaiting a functioning Panel and make agencies great deals to sign now. (There is a bit of a science to that which we will address in another posting about the similarity between the bargaining atmosphere while there is no Panel and the infamous Kmart Blue Light Special deals.) Similarly, any agencies now in term negotiations should dangle a deal in front of unions to enter a quickie agreement that trades the union some protection on the items it needs the most, such as official time, in return for greater management flexibilities wherever they are needed. After all, any union rep who lived through the George W. Panel knows that the new Panel is likely to rubber stamp virtually any deal agencies put before them.