8/23/12: The last week of scheduled mediated negotiating sessions between the SEC and NTEU over the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") came to an end earlier this month. The SEC failed to come to agreement with the Union's bargaining team on several issues that are important to SEC employees. The parties will now take the negotiations to the Federal Service Impasses Panel to seek an order resolving the remaining disagreements between the parties.
The CBA negotiations have now been going on for sixteen months, and it will likely take months more to bring them to a conclusion. The original pre-scheduled Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiating sessions occurred from April 2011 through August 2011. Thereafter, the parties scheduled further regular negotiating sessions that were mediated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service ("FMCS"). Those mediated sessions came to an end this month.
The negotiations have been difficult from the beginning. The management negotiating team engaged in bad faith negotiating tactics that forced the Union to file unfair labor practices charges against the agency. Just a few weeks ago, the SEC entered into an unprecedented settlement agreement with the Federal Labor Relations Authority ("FLRA") and NTEU resolving those charges. To NTEU's knowledge, no other federal agency has ever been successfully prosecuted for engaging in bad faith negotiations. The SEC agreed to enter into the settlement only after receiving the FLRA's evidence and witness list, which indicated that the FLRA intended to call SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro as well as Jeff Risinger, the SEC's former Director of the Office of Human Resources (OHR) and Chief Human Capital Officer, who was prepared to provide testimony supporting the FLRA’s complaint. As a result of the settlement, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro was required to post this notice in all SEC offices across the country.
Despite that settlement, the SEC's negotiating team has continued to fail to come to an agreement with NTEU on several issues. Among the SEC’s more aggressive positions has been its unrelenting refusal to simply accept the continuing existence of the agency’s highly successful telework program, which is utilized by a sizeable majority of SEC employees. The SEC has persisted in its push for new contract provisions aimed at substantially reducing access to this important benefit, as well as its unwillingness to make the highly successful Expanded Telework Trial Program permanent at the agency. It has not, however, articulated any reasoned basis for doing so, or even attempted to provide any data at all that suggest that telework has been anything other than an unqualified success at the SEC, as it has been across the Federal government and in the private sector.
The SEC's current senior management team remains highly suspicious of telework as a flexible working arrangement. The many benefits of telework, however, are substantial and well-documented, which is why Congress has repeatedly pushed its extension in the federal workforce. Telework affords a better quality of life to SEC employees by offering them significantly more flexibility in their day to day schedules and by permitting them to spend more time with their families rather than wasting hours on long commutes. It also reduces their commuting expenses and assists in decreasing our nation’s dependence upon foreign oil, the price of which will continue to rise in the coming years. In addition, it substantially decreases the agency’s “carbon footprint,” providing an important collateral benefit for our environment. It gives the SEC a great recruiting tool that makes the agency even more competitive in the marketplace. And it offers the agency a way to save money on office space during a period in which SEC management is searching for monetary savings and coming under increasing scrutiny for its leasing practices.
"We continue to be very disappointed with this negotiating process," NTEU Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman remarked today. "To put this in perspective, another federal agency, TSA, only recently became unionized, and commenced its negotiations over an entirely new collective bargaining agreement in January 2012, and yet they finished that negotiation last month," he went on to note. "During our negotiations, Chapter 293 has sought only to maintain and seek modest increases in mainstream worklife programs that are enjoyed by millions of employees in both the public and private sectors. SEC senior management simply appears to be unwilling to take steps to improve employees' worklives or morale, which is now at an all time low due to their policies."