HHS Engaged in Bad Faith

HHS Engaged in Bad Faith

Independent arbitrator, Robert Creo, announced that the HHSD had engaged in negotiations which weren’t in good faith with the NTEU when it had been negotiating to break the log jam over union contracts in 2018.

NTEU administrative officials, since 2018, have been alleging that HHS management had engaged in several bad faith negotiation measures in order to fulfill the conditions required before they could appeal to the FSIP. There were no real efforts were made to negotiate with union members. This impasses panel happens to be composed of officials appointed by the Trump administration who aren’t confirmed by the Senate.

Two unfair labor practice complaints have been filed against the HHS by NTEU. The first one accuses the HHS of imposing several rules for negotiations in a unilateral manner. The second complaint stated that both parties had come to an impasse only after having being engaged in mediation and negotiations for two days refuting the HHS’ assertion.

In his decision statement which was issued on September 30, spanning 97 pages, Robert Creo voided a decision taken by the impasses panel in April, which had mostly favored the management and gutted holiday leave and telework policies for employees working at the HHS. Creo said that while a few concrete measures and negotiations had taken place after the FSIP asserted its jurisdiction over these negotiations, such actions do not necessarily negate the previous actions of HHS management.

Creo announced the management’s move to request an impasse declaration within 2 days of commencing negotiations was clearly an instance of having acted in violation of their duty to negotiate in good faith. While the management’s decision to request for the FMCS’ assistance after a day of negotiations wasn’t a violation of their duty to conduct negotiations in good faith.

Calling for FMCS assistance and requesting their intervention without discussing over 30 contested articles (out of a total 34) with top mediators was clearly a suspicious move, Creo observed.

Another move in bad faith, Creo said, was the HHS’ insistence that parties submit their offers despite not having revealed their own proposals with employee union negotiators. HHS’ insistence that parties submit their offers despite not having revealed their own Questions regarding multiple contract proposals in their negotiations held in 2018 were not answered by management officials.

An order was issued by Creo, requiring both management and union reps to revive their negotiations. He did allow parties to incorporate any elements that both parties were in favor of, even if they had been proposed after the grievance was filed.

If HHS chooses to appeal this decision the mandated contract of the FSIP will continue to be effective. However, a spokesperson for the HHS declined to issue a comment regarding the department’s next course of action.

National President of the NTEU, Tony Reardon, the issued a letter this Monday, urging the Secretary of the HHS, Alex Azar, to resume negotiations immediately. He stated that this decision was another opportunity for them to restart their negotiations on a clean slate and reach an agreement that was beneficial for both parties.

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