Workforce

OPM tells agencies they may set up labor-management relation forums

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Agencies can reinstate labor-management relation forums, although they aren't required to, according to May 18 guidance to agencies from the Office of Personnel Management.

A 2017 executive order removing requirements for these forums remains is still on the books.

Former President Donald Trump's executive order removed requirements that agencies create labor-management relation forums where managers, feds and union representatives discuss government operations, although it didn't ban them completely.

That executive order also removed the requirement that agencies engage in "pre-decisional involvement" feds and unions" over workplace matters with feds and unions before final decisions are made. OPM guidance on the order told them to do this "only to the extent that the cost of doing so brings tangible benefits to the agency."

The Trump executive order that rolled back those policies and called for agencies to disband the groups remains "in effect" but is "under review," wrote acting OPM director Kathleen McGettigan.

While that review is pending, agencies can establish these labor-management forums.

Under previous guidance issued pursuant to the Trump executive order, agencies had to notify OPM if they determined that "benefits" of any labor-management relations forums outweighed the "costs," but that requirement no longer applies.

"OPM believes the establishment of labor-management forums and use of [pre-decisional involvement] can be beneficial and useful to agencies and labor unions. Therefore, if an agency believes establishments of these forums or use of pre-decisional involvement will be productive and elects to use them or some version of them …. The agency is encouraged to do so," the guidance states.

Federal employee unions have called for the forums to be reinstated.

"We commend President Biden for removing obstacles and allowing agencies and their employee representatives to restore these valuable forums that in the past have helped resolve workplace problems in their early stages; created efficiencies in the delivery of government services; and given employees a meaningful voice in helping agencies accomplish their missions," Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union said in a statement.

"With this new guidance, NTEU intends to encourage agencies where we represent employees to reinstate labor-management forums and grant pre-decisional involvement when it comes to workplace policies," he said.

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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