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Union Victory:

Impasse Panel Rejects HUD’s Request to Cut Off Bargaining

Ashaki Robinson Johns
Ashaki Robinson Johns

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) got a rare slap on the wrist from the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) when the Panel rejected the HUD’s obvious effort to declare an impasse before HUD and the Union had even finished negotiating all of the contract articles. The FSIP, whose job is to resolve impasses between unions and agencies in contract negotiations, declined to get involved as the parties have not yet reached an impasse.

HUD had asked the FSIP for assistance on January 10, but according to the meeting schedule, both parties had agreed to meet through February to continue contract negotiations with the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services. “The Panel’s investigation – as demonstrated by the Agency’s own submissions – reveals that that parties remain active participants in the above facilitated negotiations schedule,” FSIP Chairman Mark Carter wrote in a February 5 letter rejecting HUD’s request. “Moreover, the FMCS Mediator currently working with the parties has declined to release the parties from mediation due to their continued bargaining efforts and potential for additional resolution.”

AFGE explained that since President Trump issued three anti-worker executive orders in 2018 to gut employees’ workplace rights and destroy unions, agencies have rushed to declare impasses during negotiations in order to send their proposals to be imposed by the panel. All of the members of the FSIP were appointed by President Trump.

“AFGE Council 222 is grateful that the FSIP has seen through HUD management's newest attempt to short-circuit the bargaining process,” said Council 222 President Ashaki Robinson. “Hopefully, the agency will finally come to the table with a genuine effort to bargain in good faith so that the long-standing amicable labor-management relationship at HUD can be maintained."

House Moves to Block Federal Impasses Panel from Imposing Contracts

The House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill on June 26, 2019, that includes language that would prevent the Federal Services Impasses Panel, part of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, from adjudicating labor-management disputes that arise during collective bargaining negotiations. A provision would block agencies from implementing any collective bargaining agreement that has not been “mutually and voluntarily agreed to by all parties” or was not the result of binding arbitration. The ban is retroactive to April 30, 2019.

If enacted, the bill would prevent agencies from unilaterally implementing new union contracts. The provision also would prevent the implementation of contracts as mandated by the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which makes decisions on contested contract proposals if labor and management cannot reach an agreement.

Unlike other adjudicative bodies that deal with employee-management disputes, such as the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Merit Systems Protections Board, there are no requirements that there be minority party representation. Thus, the impasses panel is made up entirely of presidential appointees. While past impasses panels have maintained an appearance of objectivity, the current panel has an overwhelming partisan and anti-labor background.