GAO and union reach accord

GAO, IFPTE agree to union-representation election for agency analysts

When leaders of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers filed a petition May 8 seeking to represent the Government Accountability Office’s 1,500 analysts, it was widely expected that a union election would take place within several months. But talks on developing a format and schedule for an election soon broke down.

Next, in a controversial move, GAO’s top managers hired an outside law firm to represent them before GAO’s Personnel Appeals Board, which would run the election and provide advice on navigating a union election. Then, on June 21, IFPTE filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Comptroller General David Walker, GAO’s top official.

The complaint asserted that Walker was interfering with employees’ right to unionize.

A union representative soon lamented that the whole process was “going to be a long, drawn-out thing.”

But in an unexpected move July 18, GAO and IFPTE announced they had reached an agreement to schedule a union-representation election for
Sept. 19.

The accord resolves a major point of contention between GAO and the IFPTE over analysts’ eligibility to vote in an election of 461 analysts in Band II A and B of GAO’s pay-banding system. GAO officials had argued that those employees are supervisors and therefore not eligible for union representation.

On June 14, IFPTE rejected GAO’s offer to schedule an election for July if the parties agreed to exclude Band II analysts but include about 431 probationary employees. However, GAO said when the election agreement was reported that all permanent and probationary Band I, II A and II B employees would be eligible to vote in the election.

The Personnel Appeals Board will issue the formal election agreement in the near future, GAO said.

Walker said in a statement that he was pleased with “an agreement with IFPTE that will result in a timely election. As I have consistently said, GAO recognizes and supports the right of GAO employees to organize if they choose to do so.”

GAO said that the parties also have reached “an agreement in principle that will lead to withdrawal” of IFPTE’s charge of unfair labor practice against GAO.

In voting to support a union election in May, GAO analysts voiced concern about a variety of employee issues, many relating to the agency’s pay-for-performance system, which GAO implemented in 2004.

GAO employees complained that they had little input into the system’s structure and management. Union representation would give them a voice in the system, making it more transparent and objective and making employees more accountable, they said.

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