Long ago the Social Security Administration scheduled employees’ lunch periods for them and some people did not get 30 minute unpaid lunch until seven hours into their shift. Their union, AFGE, came up with an ingenious way to soften the blow for those folks. It negotiated a deal with management to let people go home 90 minutes before the end of their shift while charging them only for 60 minutes of leave. (The hour of leave was added to the 30 minute lunch to let them go 90 minutes early.) That worked fine for years until recently when SSA management said it wanted to terminate the arrangement because employees were now free to take their lunch period whenever they wished. The union fought back hard against the change, but the bargaining dispute went to the FSIP for a decision.

The Panel has a long history of favoring management in disputes over start and quit times, and we expected to read that the union lost the benefit altogether. But AFGE did better than that. It convinced the Panel that if it was going to allow management to make the change that it should force the agency to wait until the beginning of 2017. And that is what the Panel did despite the agency’s request that it be allowed to implement two weeks after the Panel decision.

The delay will not only enable employees who were leaving early on some days time to make adjustments for the impact on child care and similar obligations, but it will also give the union time to hunt around for a way to convince SSA management to back off the change completely. Perhaps the union does a study to find that the change will hurt those with child care responsibilities more than others, or that it results in some folks having to spend another hour in rush hour traffic on those days, or even that it sparks demands for other arrangements. Or, maybe the union finds something else SSA management wants to change really, really badly that could enable it to trade off between that item and this change in work hours. Great bargainers know that bargaining never ends when the deal one party is forced to accept lacks logic. Congrats to AFGE negotiators on getting this implementation delay and good luck on finding a way to get it back. This kind of restriction has no place in an era when HR leaders are leaning over backwards to find ways to make the work more flexible for employees.

See SSA, Philadelphia, PA and AFGE, Local 2006, 16 FSIP 51 (June 14, 2016)

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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