OCC Bargaining Update - November 12, 2015

NTEU Persists in Efforts to Improve Merit and Geo Pay

Update on Pay, Office Space Negotiations and Examination Efficiencies

NTEU continues to seek meaningful changes to merit pay and geo pay. Agreement has been reached on some other issues, including improvements to benefits such as the health insurance subsidy, the travel stipend program and the life cycle program, as well as restoration of the annual leave buyback program. However, management still will not agree to meaningful changes in merit pay or geo pay. As a result of this impasse in negotiations, NTEU has filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), the group established under federal labor law with the authority to resolve bargaining disputes.

NTEU regrets being forced to take this step. However, OCC has refused to consider any changes to the current merit pay program, despite management knowing it is based on a performance management system fraught with significant problems. Management agreed to form a labor-management working group over three years ago to develop improvements to the performance management system, but OCC has dragged its feet on addressing the problem. It is only just within the last couple of weeks that management even issued a solicitation for a consultant with expertise in this area to help run the process for identifying and implementing performance management improvementsa process that will likely take two years or more.

Based on the complaints NTEU has received from employees, the survey data showing employee dissatisfaction with performance management, and the data and reports indicating disparate impact and unfairness in the distribution of ratings to various groups of employees, NTEU is unwilling to give management a free ride to maintain the current merit pay system, while the union waits for the performance management system to be fixed.

Geo Pay

On the issue of geo pay, OCC’s proposal continues to rely on a system that no other agency uses, which is methodologically flawed and relies on non-transparent “black box” data. NTEU continues to press for a system that is based on the same data used in the federal locality pay system, as well as by all the other banking regulatory agencies, and to provide locality pay to all OCC employees based on this data.

NTEU is currently waiting to hear back from the FSIP on the schedule for moving forward with resolving this dispute. However, because management has refused to make changes to its current programs (and delayed the start of bargaining on compensation by even fighting us on the ground rules), employee raises for 2016 could be delayed if the dispute is not resolved soon. If this happens, NTEU will insist that, when a resolution is reached, raises be made retroactive to pay period 1 of 2016.

Examination Efficiencies

NTEU previously informed members that new guidelines on “Examination Efficiencies” were announced for implementation without any prior notice to NTEU. These new guidelines would generally require most examination activities be conducted offsite, at the field office, rather than at the bank. Although NTEU and represented examiners do not object to finding ways to conduct examinations more efficiently, the union is concerned about how these changes would affect the relationship with the banks, employee travel and commuting, as well as the need for office space in the field office, in light of ongoing negotiations on that subject (see more below).

In addition, federal labor law requires management to provide NTEU with notice and the opportunity to bargain prior to implementing changes in working conditions, precisely so that the union can address these and any other employee concerns.

Management, therefore, stated that it was delaying implementation of these changes until discussions could be held with NTEU. NTEU is waiting for management to provide a schedule for these discussions. In the meantime, NTEU is starting to hear from examiners that some field offices are starting to implement the changes, requiring more tasks to be performed in the field office rather than the bank. If this is happening in your field office, please notify your chapter president. NTEU appreciates the feedback from examiners expressing their views about these changes and hopes management will be receptive to addressing employee concerns in bargaining over the impact of these changes.

Office Space Negotiations

OCC reopened negotiations on Article 15 of the agreement seeking reductions in office space in Field, Satellite and District offices (management has since dropped its proposed changes to space in District Offices).

Although NTEU has been open to the concept of reducing space when it is not being efficiently utilized, the union has maintained that that all employees should have adequate space to work and be productive when in the office (including examiners assigned to work in large and midsize banks).

NTEU also believes that where office space is being reduced, employees should be approved to telework on a recurring, not just occasional, basis. NTEU spent several weeks trying to develop a reasonable solution, but could not reach agreement so an impasse was declared in September.

The following week, however, MCBS issued the Examination Efficiencies guidance requiring more examiners to spend significantly more time in the field office. NTEU immediately submitted a revised bargaining proposal to reflect the changed circumstances presented by the new guidelines. NTEU also filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority accusing the OCC of bargaining in bad faith by withholding this material information during the course of negotiations. That ULP charge is pending before the FLRA, and the negotiations impasse is currently being addressed by the FSIP.

Your Support is Critical

NTEU will keep you posted of developments on all these important issues. Your support is critical as NTEU represents your interests in securing fair and reasonable agreements on compensation and office space, and addresses your concerns on the new Examination Efficiency guidelines. If you have any questions or would like to provide your feedback on these matters, contact your chapter president.

“Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco.” ~ Virgil

A seat at the table, fair and equitable treatment, and professionalism are union values on which stakeholders can still count! Now more than ever!

“...to ensure that every federal employee is treated with dignity and respect.”