CHAPTER CHATTER – April 25, 2013

Chapter Chatter has been dormant the past 18 months, and that ends with this posting. While we have not established a publishing frequency, we will aim for a minimum monthly posting and go from there. As has always been our practice, we welcome your feedback, your suggestions, and any commentaries you wish to submit. Obviously, our intent remains to be as objective with the facts as we can be, which may dictate some editing on items submitted.

As we approach a busy summer of negotiations, we wanted to give you a succinct recap of items we will be dealing with, both with respect to Collective Bargaining Agreement and issues discussed in the Labor Management Forum.

OCC Issues Update- April 2013

1. Contract/Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

Management informed NTEU last week that it intends to reopen the contract, which expires September 30, 2013. The parties established dates for negotiations over the next several months, with the goal to get an agreement in place before the end of the fiscal year. The OCC contract covers compensation as well as standard conditions of employment:

Compensation Issues

Merit Pay funding: perhaps the most significant bargaining issue, but also the one with the greatest uncertainty. Although the OCC is self-funded and does not require appropriations from Congress, the federal budget situation and its impact on General Schedule pay raises will undoubtedly have an impact on what OCC management feels it can or should do with respect to funding pay increases for OCC employees. Under the current agreement, funding for merit pay is set as 4% of base pay (with individual employee pay increases varying above and below this percentage based on performance ratings). What the other FIRREA agencies are doing will also have an impact on OCC management's perspective.

    • OCC Geo Pay: Management and NTEU reached an agreement last year covering Geo Pay rate adjustments for 2013 - 2015, so Geo Pay will NOT be part of the negotiations this year.
    • Performance Management: Also as part of the initial agreement with OCC on compensation in January 2012, the parties formed a working group to look at improvements to the Performance Management system, based on its linkage to merit pay. This is an ongoing project, and it will probably be at least another year before any significant changes are implemented.
    • Student Loans: another area where we set up a working group (Student Loan Repayment Program Group - SLRPG) under the initial agreement on compensation. NTEU's goal was to try to institute a program to provide reimbursement to employees to help them repay their student loans, similar to the program that has been in place at SEC that NTEU negotiated several years ago. OCC management's reluctance to institute this program has been because it only provides benefits to employees with student loans, it will be perceived as ''unfair" by employees not receiving these benefits. The SLRPG obtained data regarding how other agencies, whether as a general benefit or a targeted retention program, uses these programs. The focus has shifted to a targeted retention incentive based on extensive data concerning training costs at OCC for targeted populations. The parties are still working on this issue through our Labor Management Forum, and the outcome through that process will affect whether this will remain an issue for the contract negotiations later this year.
    • Special Increases: another subject handled through a joint working group established under the initial agreement on compensation. "Special Increases" provide pay increases with a pay band for significant increases in skill or responsibilities. The working group has recommended more clearly defined eligibility criteria for these pay increases.

Other Contract Issues

This is where we wish to solicit your input. NTEU definitely needs input from our OCC NTEU reps, but certainly from any employee, as to whether there are other issues you have observed in the contract that we should open for renegotiations. You can identify such issues based on the following criteria:

    1. Problems: have there been any provisions of the current agreement about which there have been continuing disputes between NTEU and management about their meaning and application?
    2. Improvements: are there areas where the benefits or protections under the contract have been insufficient or inadequate, or where further expansion is warranted?

2. Pending Mid-term Issues

Performance Metrics: NTEU has raised concerns to OCC management about the introduction of new metrics into employee performance plans, especially for customer service staff in ITS and employees in CCO. Although management has the right to set performance standards, NTEU objected that there has been no notice, pre-decisional involvement, or bargaining over such changes. We had an extensive discussion of this at the last Labor Management Forum, during which senior management professed they were unaware of such changes to date. They said that although metrics based on OCC strategic initiatives had been incorporated into performance plans for managers, any new metrics had not, and should not have been, pushed down into employee performance plans. Since that meeting, CCO has issued an e-mail clarifying that no metrics are being added to employee performance plans this year. We are still waiting for a management response on IT performance plans.

Credit Card policy: Management has provided NTEU notice of a proposed change that would prohibit employees (primarily large bank examiners) from obtaining or maintaining a credit card from an institution they are assigned primary responsibility to supervise. This would change a policy allowing employees to hold credit cards from these institutions as long as there are no payment or debt issues, which has been in effect since 2003. NTEU has objected that this change is not required by law, is completely unnecessary, and would have an adverse impact on employees and their credit ratings by requiring them to switch their credit cards. We have proposed that current employees be "grandfathered" from any such change. NTEU is awaiting a response from OCC management.

Dividend Reinvestment Programs: OCC management has also proposed changing a long-standing policy which allows employees to participate in Dividend Reinvestment Programs (DRIPS) from institutions that they would not otherwise be allowed to buy additional stock in - employees typically have these from previous employment, or from their spouse's employment or some other means (i.e., inheritance). NTEU has also objected to this change as unnecessary and harmful to affected employees (an estimated 200 or so). We are awaiting a response from OCC management.

Termination of Resource Group: OCC management has notified NTEU of its intention to eliminate the "Resource Group." Previously, employees required to relocate due to a reorganization, or other employees within three years of retirement, have been eligible to join the Resource Group to have essentially floating assignments nationwide over a three year period, after which they must either find another position or leave the OCC. Although there are currently no participants in the program, NTEU has proposed that the program be maintained, as otherwise we would need to recreate it if and when there is a future reorganization that requires employee relocations. We are currently considering counter-proposals.