But under pressure from lawmakers and a decision by a Federal Labor Relations Authority investigator that the EPA had negotiated in bad faith, the agency and the union agreed to return to the negotiating table. The EPO had agreed to unilaterally terminate the contract it had imposed, while AFGE agreed to abandon unfair labour practices and other complaints it had filed in recent months. In July, the EPO and AFGE agreed on a new contract. Both the Agency and the union have called the new collective agreement a victory in their own way. No representative of the EPO union may devote 100% of their working time to the official time, in accordance with the agreement. The official use of time throughout the bargaining unit is limited to 7,400 hours per year – one hour per unit member. According to the opM`s latest report on the subject, EPO union representatives spent more than 58,274 hours in 2016 for the official time. Perhaps especially for EPO staff, the new collective agreement allows workers to telework up to two days a week – an improvement over the one-week one-day limit that the Agency unilaterally implemented last summer. Asked about the additional flexibilities offered by the Agency at the negotiating table, EPO spokesman James Hewitt told the Federal News Network: “The Agency`s offer to increase the flexibility of telework during negotiations in exchange for the AFGE Official Time Agreement and the Negotiation Policy Appeal Procedure is well documented.” AfGE stated, however, that the Agency had not proposed to expand telework during its negotiations. The union filed a charge of unfair labour practice on the agency`s comments, which AFGE describes as false. The agreement requires staff to telework from their local suburbs. It also confirms telework as part of the EPA Operating Plan (COOP) and describes positions that simply cannot do remote work, including those that require access to classified information, have personal interactions with their superiors and members of the public, or must be physically present in a laboratory or test site.
Linda Ward-Smith: So in North Las Vegas, we have about 3,000 employees and I`m a presidential president. Our negotiating team was made up of members in the United States. So I was chosen from about 12 members, and I was lucky enough to be a substitute, so I am very grateful. We have at the federal level more than 200,000 members that we represent at the VA. So these are the people we are trying to negotiate a fair treaty for. EPO staff must also maintain a “fully successful” or superior performance assessment to meet their telework agreements. The signing of the new contract is expected to end a long and often controversial saga of collective bargaining between the two sides. But these two again disagreed on a series of EPO comments that suggested that the Agency had proposed a more generous telework policy in exchange for concessions made by the union at official time and other issues. AfGE, however, called the agreement a “great contractual victory,” during which the union saw improvements to 13 items over the contract unilaterally imposed last year. Linda Ward-Smith: Well, we are not in negotiations at this time. We have already tried to negotiate a fair treaty in June 2019. We started and finished six months later, when we could not agree on about 30 of our items in our contract, and management decided to put it in a bind.
And for now, we are awaiting a decision from the Fair Labor Relations Authority. And they are more likely to impose a management contract, which means that we have not negotiated fairly, as we should, in accordance with the law. So for now, we are just waiting for a decision from the Employment Agency.