NTEU took a bargaining dispute over salaries to the Panel recently arguing that the performance appraisal system driving pay decisions “… is broken beyond repair in its current form which, in turn, leads to employee dissatisfaction over pay.” However, the agency put some hard evidence on the table arguing that employees disagreed with the union. It pointed to the annual employee survey (FEVS) showing that “nearly 72% of the surveyed employees believe that ‘considering everything,’ they are satisfied with their pay,” and that 73% of them agreed that their performance appraisal accurately reflected their performance.” Faced with the union employees saying one thing and their negotiators another the Panel decided to go with the statistical evidence. This case is yet another in a growing line where …

agencies are using data available to them to undermine union negotiators’ claims. There is nothing in the record suggesting that the union bargainers attacked the value of the surveys or conducted polls of their own to rebut the agency’s data. As a result, the Panel largely adopted the agency’s merit pay proposal over NTEU’s. See Dept. of Treasury, OCC and NTEU, 16 FSIP 13 (2016)

The agency in this case is the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where the wages and benefits are negotiable. NTEU has represented the employees for over a decade. Not long ago the Treasury IG issued a critical report of the existing pay-for-performance system alleging that there were “statistically significant differences between the performance ratings of White employees and African Americans” with White employees getting higher ratings. The IG also found that non-unit employees at OCC got higher ratings than unit employees bargain. The Panel Member who decided the case told the parties to work together to modify this “troubling” information and expressed his regret that none of the issues before him targeted the racial disparities, leaving him powerless to fix things.

Those facts remind us of one of the most significant federal sector discrimination cases that came out of AFGE’s Social Security bargaining unit in the mid-90s. African-American males alleged that they were not getting a legally proper share of awards and QSI’s because of their race. In the end the agency wound up paying the employees of that class millions in back pay and shining a light on the path that all employees in a similar situation can take to correct civil rights violations. Jefferson v. Astrue, SSA, EEOC No. 0120081816-18 (2011).

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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