Objectives of the Federal Labor Relations Program
The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent body established by Congress as part of the executive arm of the federal government. It governs labor matters and relations between the federal government and its workers. The authority was created through the Civil Service Reform Act, 1978. It is a quasi-judicial organization (Holley, Ross, & Wolters, 2016). The FLRA adjudicates the disputes that may arise under the Civil Service Reform Act.
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It handles cases related to the negotiability of the collective bargaining agreement. It also deals with appeals regarding unfair labor practices and representation petitions. The body is charged with the responsibility of providing leadership in the development of guidelines and policies related to the federal labor-management relation programs. It also helps the federal agencies to understand their responsibilities and rights as provided by the law (Holley et al., 2016). The FLRA adjudicates labor-related disputes by conducting hearings. The authority also addresses complaints related to the unfair treatment of government employees.
The scope of bargaining within the federal sector is established by Section 7106 of Title VII. It is provided in the CSRA (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016). The CSRA specifies the management rights. The scope is also specified by the management rights clauses found in the negotiated contracts for federal agencies and departments. It is noted that even though the scope of bargaining and management rights is clearly indicated, the practical application is viewed as nebulous. It varies from one agency to another.
The CSRA allows negotiations regarding the procedures that should be used by the management as it exercises its prerogatives. Nevertheless, federal unions make contributions to how assignments, promotions, transfers, position classifications, and layoffs are carried out (Cihon & Castagnera, 2016).
A Unilateral Decision
An incident where the management took a unilateral decision that had some impact on the stakeholders was the transfer of a group of workers to a different unit without negotiations with the affected parties or the union. Had the management bothered to involve the parties, the workers would have got some monetary compensation for the disruption. The workers would also have undertaken the assignment positively and benefited the organization.
The American Federation of Government Employees
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest union representing federal employees in the country. Most of the employees represented by AFGE work in federal offices as correctional officers, police officers, lawyers, environmentalists, and military officers (Twomey, 2012). The civil servants at every federal agency are represented by AFGE on all legal matters associated with their work.
The Certification of Representative
The certification of the representative is a formal document that is issued by a labor regional director. It certifies that a labor union has been chosen to be the exclusive representative by the majority of workers in a unit. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute) requires the recognition of a union by a federal agency for purposes of engaging in collective bargaining with regards to matters affecting the employees (Twomey, 2012).
The union is mandated to represent all the employees without discrimination. They are represented regardless of whether or not they are members of the union. The maintenance of current and accurate certification is a logical way through which the parties to a bargaining relationship can have the assurance that the unit will address their interests. It is also an accurate reflection of the parties involved in the bargaining relationship. The Statutes highlight provisions that can clarify or amend the certification that relates to the employee’s representation in the bargaining unit.
Position-Based and Interest-Based Bargaining
Position-Based vs. Interest-Based Approaches
Characteristics of the two approaches
There are two important approaches to negotiations. They are the interest-based and position-based strategies. The important element in position-based negotiations is the substance and the actual item that is the source of the engagement. In such situations, the parties view each other as adversaries that should be defeated (Twomey, 2012). Consequently, each party adopts a self-serving position in an attempt to emerge victoriously.
Each party is likely to have a pre-determined solution, which they push for vigorously. If the parties are forced to concede, they do so grudgingly. A major problem with the position-negotiation is that it often creates resentment. The reason is that one party is likely to win over the other. The losing side will be resentful and may attempt to reclaim what they lost. The result of a win-lose outcome may plant the seeds for a long-term and continuous conflict. The conflict may affect the productivity of the organization.
While the substance is viewed as important, the interest-based approach puts more emphasis on the importance of relationships. The relationships are important in situations where the parties are interdependent. It helps them achieve a common objective. The interest-based strategy seeks to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome. The outcome should be beneficial to the parties by addressing their interests (Twomey, 2012).
The approach addresses the problem and not the individuals in the negotiation. The results of such engagement include improved credibility and mutual trust among the parties. The problem with winning the most concessions in the bargaining process is the loss of focus of some of the issues that are important to the constituents.
The measure of success in the position-based negotiation entails the self-serving outcomes. They include breaking the bottom-line of the other party and getting the most concessions (Wheeler, 2013). The idea behind the position-based bargaining is to outwit the adversary. It can also be observed that a party in a negotiation may get more. However, this is not always the best outcome for such a party.
In interest-based bargaining, influence and power are significant. However, there are other three factors that influence the direction of the negotiations. The facets include the control of time, information, and personal power. The party that is under time pressure ultimately performs poorly in negotiations. A negotiator should be well advised to prepare and plan ahead with regard to the time available.
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They should use the time as a valuable but limited resource (Twomey, 2012). In labor disputes, the interest-based negotiation approach takes cognizance of the power held by the management. The managers have the power to reward, punish, and promote. Such powers should not be used in the negotiation. Instead, they should be used to promote mutual respect by facilitating the outcomes of a mutually beneficial agreement.
For a tenacious worker, a leader with excellent organizational skills, and a perfectionist, the interest-based negotiation approach is the best method of negotiating. The method allows the parties to develop an interest in the mutual outcomes and the protection of the integrity of the parties. The interest-based approach deals with the issue at hand through a respectful process that is geared towards a mutually agreeable outcome.
Reasons why the interest-based negotiation is more effective
The approach is more effective because it does not have hardened outcome positions that may lead to the collapse of the negotiations. It recognizes that both parties have interests in the issue (Twomey, 2012). They have to accept that in the spirit of bargaining and maintenance of future relationships, they have to concede some grounds. Ultimately, they have to work towards a settlement that is beneficial to all the stakeholders involved.
Mid-Term Negotiated Agreement
A mid-term negotiated agreement refers to contract terms that occur while the CBA is in force. It is acceptable for mid-term agreements to be negotiated. However, such negotiations are based on issues that are not addressed in the existing CBA based on the conditions set by a particular union. The CBA contract between the employer and the union representatives promotes the primary purpose of the labor policy.
The policy demands that the employer and the workers stabilize their duties, benefits, and rights for an identified period. The stability degree allowed by the agreement and the flexibility of the two parties are determined and guided by the statutory authority through specific clauses. The clauses may also be included in the CBA (Wheeler, 2013). The mid-term modification, as such, entails changes in the existing terms and conditions of employment, which are identified during the implementation of a CBA.
The determination of the legality of the mid-term changes is captured under Section 8(d) of the Labor Act (Wheeler, 2013). The section regulates the actions of the employees and the management. Although the provision allows for changes to be made, it demands the utilization of specific bargaining procedures. If the contemplated changes are likely to affect the terms and conditions of employment as contained in the agreement, the management may not implement them without the consent of the other party.
What this means is that the party desiring to introduce the modification must engage in negotiations in good faith pursuant to the necessary regulations (Twomey, 2012). The proposed changes may be implemented after an impasse. However, the provision for mutual consent allows the affected party to veto them. The changes can be sanctioned if they are likely to alter the terms of employment indicated in the agreement.
The changes achieved through mid-term bargaining are expected to be new and not covered by the existing CBA. Consequently, the negotiations are supposed to be supplementary to the existing document (Wheeler, 2013). For instance, the employer may wish to introduce new rules. Ordinarily, such changes can be implemented as long as they do not contradict the provisions of the CBA. However, the employer is expected to give the union the opportunity to bargain about the issue.
The mid-term bargaining agreement under review shows that the organization introduced incentive bonuses for work done over the holidays. At the same time, the management introduced attendance and tardiness regulations, which included disciplinary actions (Wheeler, 2013). While the union appreciated the incentive policy, it was opposed to the disciplinary actions for poor attendance. The disciplinary clause was the issue to be subjected to a bargaining process. The final agreement did not include disciplinary measures. However, it was agreed that the workers are expected to take their duties with the seriousness they deserved.
The bargaining strategy that was applied in the mid-term negotiation was an interest-based approach. The management and the workers’ representatives held a series of meetings and agreed to drop the disciplinary changes. They agreed to introduce the incentive bonuses. The incentives were found to be adequate to address the issue of working extra time while addressing the issues of attendance and tardiness.
Days and Seniority
The Terms ‘Days’ and ‘Seniority’
The CBA contains the terms ‘days’ and ‘seniority’. The former refers to the period that the workers are engaged in the tasks. The terminology can also be applied in the description of the period of giving notice (Wheeler, 2013). On the other hand, ‘seniority’ refers to the commencement date of an employee’s engagement or employment as provided for in the CBA. The date may include the period of continuous service, either as a temporary or a regular employee.
The use of ‘seniority’ in the CBA differs from the expected meaning of seniority in normal language. The meaning that would be expected would be in the realm of the management hierarchy (Wheeler, 2013). It may be used to refer to senior managers whose seniority is higher than that of a supervisor.
Official Time used by Union Officials
The official time for union activities is provided for under Section 7131 of Title 5 in the US Labor Code. The code defines and authorizes the time that is required for union officials to represent employees and attend to labor matters (Wheeler, 2013). It is paid time that is outside the official duties of the representative. It is when the officials represent the employees and a union in bargaining activities. The perused CBA has allocated 5 hours per month for the union officials. The labor union and the management have to account for the time and ensure that it is used well.
Reasonable time-off does not have a legal definition. On the contrary, it depends on the employer and the need to keep the production process on the move. In most cases, the employer and the officials agree on what would be a reasonable time for the union activities. However, the law recognizes that the officials need time away from their work to represent the employees in labor matters (Wheeler, 2013). The time used was reported to be 250 hours in the previous year. It was reasonable and adequate to handle all the labor-related labor-related matters, including dispute resolutions.
The employers working with unionized employees are bound by several considerations when dealing with the workers. The considerations are outlined in the CBA. The document governs the relationships between the employer and the workers, especially regarding issues that relate to discipline, performance evaluations, and termination procedures (Twomey, 2012). If the workers feel that the management is not fulfilling its obligation as provided for in the CBA, grievance procedure may be initiated. Consequently, union grievances emanate from a perceived violation of the provisions of the CBA. It involves complex procedural guidelines and rules to promote fair representation.
Many organizations negotiate for the inclusion of time limits for handling grievances within the CBA. The time limits require workers to report the grievances within a set time limit. In the CBA under question, the time limit is set at one month (Wheeler, 2013). It is observed that the longer a grievance takes before it is lodged, the more difficult it would be to collect the necessary evidence to prove it. It is an occurrence that could be detrimental to either of the parties.
Exclusions to the Grievance Procedure
The CBA in question does not have an exclusion clause. The reason is that all the workers are members of the union (Twomey, 2012).
Common Issues Addressed through the Agency’s Negotiated Grievance Procedure
The common issues relate to directives that violate the standard work procedures, especially assigning a junior worker a job meant for a higher-ranking employee. The grievances are based on a lack of seniority (Twomey, 2012). Workers also raise concerns over unilateral changes on the tasks without consultations with the union.
The Most Effective Way to Resolve Grievances
The most effective way to resolve grievances at the workplace is to immediately identify and deal with the issue. The manager should take the appropriate steps as prescribed in the CBA and eliminate the source of the grievance (Wheeler, 2013). The manager is expected to acknowledge the issue as the true feelings of the worker. The acknowledgment is an indication of the fact that the matter will be resolved swiftly and without any bias. The manager will gather the facts and make a decision. In most cases, the decision would be the identification of an alternative.
The Unfair Labor Practice Filed Against a Management Official
The unfair labor practice (ULP) is an action by a member of the management that violates the rights of a worker who is protected by the labor law. The ULP that has taken place in the recent past include discrimination against an employee because they belong to a union (Twomey, 2012). The worker was denied permission to take a sick child to the hospital. The senior managers intervened and the employee was granted the necessary permission.
Cihon, P., & Castagnera, J. (2016). Employment and labor law (9th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.
Holley, W., Ross, W., & Wolters, R. (2016). The labor relations process (11th ed.). Boston: South-Western College Publisher.
Twomey, D. (2012). Labor and employment law: Text & cases (15th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.
Wheeler, M. (2013). The art of negotiation: How to improvise agreement in a chaotic world. New York: Free Press.