Appeals court sustains union’s right to negotiate terms of layoffs

AFGE argued it should have a say in an Air Force reduction in force.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the right of federal unions to negotiate certain issues when an agency decides to reduce its ranks.

The court’s decision comes after the American Federation of Government Employees local representing employees at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona challenged an Air Force decision to conduct a reduction in force, or RIF, at the base in 2006. The Air Force said the union did not have the right to negotiate the RIF, and the union then took the case to the Federal Labor Relations Authority and won. The Air Force appealed FLRA’s ruling in 2011.

At issue was the Air Force’s decision to eliminate competitive service positions and effectively exempt appointees hired under Veterans Recruitment Appointments, which are designed to place veterans in entry to mid-level positions in the federal government. The union argued that many of those employees had served for less time than the workers in competitive service positions and should not have been immune from the RIF.

“By attempting to exclude employees appointed under the VRA authority, the Air Force was trying to circumvent RIF rules and lay off permanent employees with more seniority,” outgoing AFGE President John Gage said in a statement Wednesday. “We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the union to negotiate over the terms of a RIF that otherwise would have negatively affected career employees.”