WHEN UNIONS GET PIGGISH
If you have read Fedsmill.com for a while we hope the message has come through that we are not unquestioning allies of either unions or management. Admittedly, we started out very pro-union, but we were never “my union right or wrong” folks. Then, we hit a big bump in the road and decided that our commitment is to a reasonable, positive and mutually productive system of LMR—not to either party. We think unions have to be just as responsible as they want agencies to be, and we worry a lot about unions that pursue goals that are unquestionably outside the bounds of reasonableness. They are just begging for Congressman Issa and his oft-deranged posse to ride into LMR town and shoot the place up. A brand new AFGE decision makes our point.
An AFGE Council went to arbitration arguing that full-time union official should receive AUO even if they do not work a second of overtime for the agency the entire year. AUO is a compensation twist that enables the agency to pay its employees as much as 25% more than their grade and step require when the employees are subject to regular unanticipated overtime assignments. The union based its claim on contract language which provided that union reps “will not suffer any loss of pay, allowances, or other penalty for the use of official time.” It also pointed to the fact that the agency had paid full-time union reps AUO for years until Congress exposed some abuses in their agency’s AUO policies. When the grievance got to the arbitrator he agreed that the agency could not stop paying the full-time union reps AUO even if they never worked a second of OT in the last year or expected to work OT in the next year.
But when the agency filed exceptions, FLRA stepped in to play the role of parent and ruled that government-wide regulations bar the payment of AUO “where the grievants had not performed overtime work for years, and had no plans to return to performing overtime work – is inconsistent with §§ 550.153(b) and 550.161(f).”
Frankly, that is a very good thing in the long run for unions. Not only does the FLRA deny the anti-federal employees thugs on the Hill an opportunity to sweep in and “reform” the labor-management process, but it also likely helps the union avoid some long-term dissatisfaction among union members who are actually working those overtime hours to get AUO pay. These union reps should not suffer any loss of pay because that particular AFGE Council, which we greatly admire otherwise, has millions in the bank to pay them out of union funds. Or, the employees could perform some overtime work each year to earn AUO.
One of the things we like best about AFGE is that the national office does not totally control what cases go to arbitration. AFGE locals have a large say in that. But this may be one of those times that AFGE could have benefitted everyone if its national office officials stepped in and demanded a different response to management’s decision.
Whether it is gluttonous demands for attorney fees, wasteful official time systems, exorbitant union officer salaries & expenses, or demands for lavish union offices, unions have to keep in mind that if they get greedy they will kill a very good thing. Fedsmill.com plan to keep pounding on that message until those abusing the system and putting everyone at risk get the message.
See Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, 69 FLRA 579 (2016) for the decision.