Workforce

OPM tells agencies to restart union talks to uproot Trump-era orders

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

The Office of Personnel Management instructed agencies on the details of how to uproot Trump administration workforce policies, as ordered by President Joe Biden put in place via executive order days after taking office.

Much of the OPM's memo focuses on the series of 2018 executive orders that put restrictions on union activity at federal agencies and changed processes to make it easier to fire federal employees for poor performance.

The memo also instructs agencies to head back to the bargaining table on any provisions of collective bargaining agreements that they renegotiated with unions on the basis of those executive orders, which curtailed official time and put restrictions on union use of federal facilities.

"Agencies must identify those provisions and … engage impacted unions, as soon as practicable, to suspend, revise or rescind the actions covered," wrote Kathleen McGettigan, acting OPM director. This includes agreements ordered by the Federal Services Impasses Panel, an agency that resolves disputes in agency-union negotiations, the memo says.

If agencies are in the midst of bargaining, they should withdraw proposals and craft new ones in line with Biden's executive order, the memo says. One of the Trump policies that it rolled back was specifically targeted at the collective bargaining process by which agencies and unions reach agreements.

Biden's executive order doesn't require agencies to reopen collective bargaining agreements on issues not covered by Trump's executive orders, but agencies are allowed to do so, the memo says.

They should "take a hard look" at whether Trump's executive orders "influenced bargaining-table strategy and decision making," McGettigan wrote.

Unions have said that agencies have been slow to implement Biden's reversal and to reach out to them on getting back to the bargaining table. Union officials said that they were hoping OPM would issue strong guidance for agencies with accountability measures.

"Not all agencies have acted promptly," said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees in a statement about the memo. "Today's action by OPM is an important step toward restoring federal workers' union rights across the government and enforcing President Biden's order rolling back the illegal union-busting executive orders issued by the previous president,"

Other policies reversed with the new memo include official time procedures. The Trump policy had required employees to give written notice in order to use official time for union business.

OPM will also reverse a 2020 rule that cemented the executive order about firing poor performers with notice-and-comment rulemaking.

As far as Schedule F goes, the memo directs agencies to stop any activities to move employees to the new schedule and rolls back any agency lists for Schedule F that OPM may have approved. The memo also pulls back any OPM guidance documents issued in relation to the Trump executive orders.

Biden's executive order also noted his intent to work to bring federal employees up to a $15 minimum wage. The personnel office is still working on its analysis for that project with the Chief Human Capital Officers, McGettigan wrote.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) greeted the news of the memo.

"With this clear guidance, the Biden Administration continues to support and bolster our public sector unions," he said in a statement. "Unions deserve a fair collective bargaining forum. Contract provisions forced upon them in bad faith by the Trump Administration should be immediately invalidated."

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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