OCC Bargaining Update - March 15, 2016

Arbitrator Set to Rule on Bargaining Dispute

Last week, NTEU and OCC Management met with a Member of the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) in an attempt to resolve the impasse in negotiations over two issues: (1) Geo/Locality Pay and (2) Merit Pay and Bonuses. The FSIP, a body established as part of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), has authority under federal labor law to issue a final and binding decision resolving the dispute if it is unable to assist the parties through mediation to reach an agreement. The FSIP has broad discretion in issuing a decision – it could adopt Management’s proposal, NTEU’s proposal, some of each, or come up with its own solution somewhere in between.

The Panel Member was unable to bring the parties to an agreement, so NTEU and OCC management have each submitted their last best offers. An arbitration decision from the Panel Member is expected in May.

Why Was There No Agreement?

The short answer to this is that OCC management refuses to offer meaningful geo or locality pay to many employees. While management has offered significant increases in geo pay for a few cities, NTEU insists that all OCC employees should be receiving locality pay, like all other employees in the federal government. All employees in the other financial regulatory agencies receive some form of locality pay, including those in smaller cities that are in the “Rest of U.S.” category under the federal locality pay program. For example:

  • In OCC, many employees receive no Geo Pay. But federal General Schedule employees in the lowest cost “RUS” areas are receiving 14.35%. In FDIC, where base pay is more similar to OCC base pay, employees in RUS are receiving locality pay of 6.24%.
  • In DC, OCC currently provides 18% Geo, while GS locality is 24.78% and FDIC locality is 23.31%.
  • In SF, OCC currently pays 33% Geo; GS locality is 35.75% while FDIC locality is 43.9%.
  • In Boston, OCC Geo is currently 18%; GS locality is 25.19% and FDIC locality is 28.06%

NTEU presented comprehensive data demonstrating that OCC employees are earning less than their counterparts at FDIC. But Management is in denial, and continues to argue that it doesn’t need to increase locality pay in most areas because it mistakenly believes that total pay for its employees is comparable or even higher than other agencies. This mistake is rooted in their refusal to recognize the fact that the OCC pay band structure suppresses wages for bargaining unit employees. In its final offer, management finally offered minimal geo increases for all areas, but these were so small – only 0.5% total (for three years) for employees in RUS, and only 1% for employees in most other cities – that we could not accept this as a reasonable effort to provide OCC employees with comparable pay.

With regard to the dispute over Merit Pay, while NTEU offered to make some concessions on this issue in order to reach an agreement, we were unable to do so given Management’s intransigence on the locality pay issue. As a result, this issue is now also before the Arbitrator.

There is still a possibility that the parties could come to an agreement before the Arbitrator issues his decision. However, for this to happen we would need to see a change in management’s position on locality pay.

Make your voice heard – Join NTEU today! Membership in the Union sends a strong message to OCC Management that employees support NTEU’s bargaining objectives, and that you are not satisfied with the status quo on Geo Pay or Merit Pay. The more employees support NTEU, the more likely that we will be able to successfully negotiate a settlement to this dispute.