Workforce

OPM gets cranking on workforce orders

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268 

The Office of Personnel Management ordered federal agencies to start fully complying with three executive orders altering federal workforce policy after a federal court lifted an injunction that had blocked their full implementation.

OPM Director Dale Cabaniss in an Oct. 4 memo reinstated guidance dating back to July 2018 that tasked agencies with updating OPM and the White House on the status of collective bargaining agreements and current negotiations with an eye to putting the particulars of the three executive orders in effect.

The injunction dates back to a federal district court ruling in August 2018, which determined that the orders were contrary to the intent of Congress in the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations statute. However, an appeals court determined that the unions opposing the executive orders were required to take their complaints to the Federal Labor Relations Authority on a case-by-case basis rather than dispute the whole orders in court. FLRA judgments are appealable to federal court, and it appears likely that many such cases will be pursued by unions in the future. In the meantime, the judgment overturning the orders was vacated, and, after some further appellate machinations, the injunction blocking the orders was lifted.

New policies in the orders include restrictions on time unionized feds are permitted to spend on union business during work hours (called "official time"), union use of federal facilities, new time frames for grievance negotiations, new 30-day limits on turnaround plans and more.

"Reinstatement of the previously enjoined portions of the EOs may provide an additional basis for agencies to continue ongoing pursuit of agency-specific goals through the collective bargaining process," Cabaniss wrote in the memo.

J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, cautioned that the order aren't designed to alter existing union agreements.

"Any attempts by agencies to enforce these provisions outside of the collective bargaining process will be met with immediate legal challenge by the union," Cox said in a statement.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to put some aspects of the orders into effect, including reducing official time and putting limits on free or below-market office space for unions in agency facilities, use of agency IT services and subscriptions to the federal labor law resource CyberFeds and taking back parking spaces reserved for union officials.

"These executive orders will help VA continue to improve by ensuring our employees and resources are focused squarely on serving Veterans," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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