Expansion of collective federal bargaining considered

May report could recommend rule change.

The Office of Personnel Management’s Labor and Management Relations Council has unanimously approved an outline of a report due to President Obama in May on personnel issues for which collective bargaining is currently optional.

The council in 2010 commissioned a working group composed of representatives from both labor and management who are coordinating with government agencies that have tested (b)(1) bargaining issues -- issues not required to be up for negotiation with unions in the public sector.

So-called (b)(1) bargaining gets its name from a section of the U.S. Code that covers topics management currently may choose to bargain or not. These issues include numbers, types and grades of employees, and methods, means and technology used for doing an organization’s work, according to National Federation of Federal Employees President Bill Dougan.

During the Clinton administration, the statute required that labor organizations and federal agencies bargain for the issues contained in (b)(1), but that requirement was rescinded under former President George W. Bush. The council hopes the report, due to the White House on May 1, will make a definitive recommendation on how President Obama should handle the statute.

“One recommendation could be continuing the status quo and leave it as an option,” Dougan told Government Executive. “Another option could be to discontinue (b)(1) bargaining, another option could be to mandate (b)(1) bargaining.”

The 12 pilot projects were established in nine federal agencies covering more than 14,000 bargaining unit employees. The working group’s interviews with employees in those projects are complete, and the group has almost completed analyzing the data and metrics reports.

According to the outline approved by the council, the report will include basic findings and recommendations, a history of (b)(1) bargaining under previous administrations and analyses of the pilot projects and metrics adopted to measure the effectiveness of the bargaining during the trials.