Chapter Chatter - March 19, 2014

Resistance to TeleWork Continues

OCC management continues its longstanding resistance to TeleWork requests. The resistance sometimes now is tempered, because TeleWork so clearly is supposed to be "encouraged" when appropriate. However, OCC managers rarely find TeleWork appropriate on a recurring basis, and the line is clearly drawn at not more than once a week, recurring or situational. Very few OCC employees are TeleWorking two days per week. In certain instances, managers have actually stooped to eye-rolling when TeleWork is brought up during team meetings, or even during the current exercises necessitated by the Engagement Survey.

In 2010, NTEU and the OCC amended Article 19 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to eliminate the one-day-per-week limitation. Although the attempt was to eliminate any “artificial” or “arbitrary” barriers, OCC management continues to operate with the barriers in place. In many pockets of the OCC where management is subtly negative about TeleWork, a don't-rock-the-boat mentality prevails among employees who actually would TeleWork, if encouraged. A supervisor may simply say, "I need you here"-- and a prospective TeleWorker may be discouraged from asking further; or if it boiled down to it, from filing a grievance.

A Chapter 299 case is heading for arbitration within the next several months. An employee who has successfully TeleWorked requested an additional day, which would bring the employee's TeleWork to five out of nine workdays (on a 5-4-9 biweekly schedule); that is, to more than 50 percent of the employee’s schedule. At the direction of senior management, the immediate supervisor denied the employee's request. We filed a grievance. In Step One and Step Two decisions of the grievance process, the OCC continued to maintain that the employee's job is "interrelated" with co-workers. Face-to-face meetings are exaggerated, along with various, nebulous claims about fostering rapport or exhibiting teamwork. NTEU invoked arbitration and filed an information request, asking management to provide supporting evidence of its claims. It definitely projects the appearance that management is trying to limit TeleWork in one employee's case because of a concern about the precedent: other employees can actually get their work done via emails and telephone. Management claims about the value of face-to-face meetings are at best misleading.

It still appears that the OCC-wide aim is really to cap TeleWork. The data suggest strong pockets of resistance to employee TeleWork within OCC. "Too much" TeleWork is resisted and, in many cases across the OCC, even a modest amount of TeleWork is subtly or subliminally discouraged.

In the recent results for the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, OCC's results were incredibly out of line with the Government-wide and Treasury results. Among OCC employees, 5.6% self-reported that they TeleWork 1-2 days per week, and 0.4% TeleWork 3+ days per week. In other words, 6% of OCC employees telework at least once per week. The Government-wide percentage is about twice that (9.2% and 3.3% respectively), and Treasury's percentage (20.7% and 14.6% respectively) is nearly six times the OCC's percentage. Among OCC employees, 51.6% reported that they TeleWorked "infrequently." Government-wide, only 10% reported that they TeleWorked “infrequently” and only 13% of Treasury employees reported infrequent TeleWork. Here is a link to the survey results: OCC’s 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results. See Question # 73.

Recently, OCC management released a 52-page report (“Report”) that shows TeleWork participation and TeleWork requests, by OCC business unit, from March to September 2013. The report, however, did not break out the data between bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit employees, even though NTEU expressed the need for bifurcated data at the Labor Management Forum last September.

NTEU is currently reviewing this report. It shows wide disparities within some lines of business, suggesting what is already anecdotally known: some local managers are hostile or resistant to TeleWork. NTEU would like senior management to do more to liberate those managers that feel constrained by the formal training OCC conducts on TeleWork and which supports outdated traditions and viewpoints. While the report shows that a high percentage of formal requests for TeleWork were approved, we have reason to believe that many employees (who informally discussed TeleWork with their managers beforehand) were discouraged from even making the formal request through e-Time.

Two very outmoded management principles at issue are: (1) employees are time thieves and must be watched with hawk-like scrutiny; and, (2) employees and good managers manage by Walking Around the Office and letting their presence (scrutiny) be known.

What are your experiences? Does your immediate supervisor support TeleWork? Do you feel discouraged from requesting TeleWork? Do you feel your supervisor is discouraged from granting TeleWork?

NTEU wants to know!

Joint Working Group on OCC Field Office Space

Currently, there are two working groups conducting meetings and studies, with recommendations forthcoming within the next three months. NTEU and OCC management representatives comprise both groups.

As a result of the International Peer Review, one working group is considering far reaching changes relative to the way we do business. This will impact Large Banks considerably, as they are considering changes to the actual onsite presence we currently have with our banks. It is important to emphasize that we do not even have recommendations at this point and no changes are currently in process.

As a result of our negotiations last summer, relative to Article 15 (Office Space Allocation), NTEU and OCC formed the Field Office working group to consider a more effective, higher-use Field Office for the future. This will impact where we do business. Reducing the size of the offices and the number of cubes available to examiners are definite considerations. It is also important to note there are currently no recommendations or changes in process. Additionally, because of existing leases, any significant changes will take several years to fully implement.

NTEU has already expressed our concern with OCC management that, at least with respect to the field offices, these groups cannot operate independently. Recommendations from the Peer Review working group will likely include a considerable displacement of large bank examiners from their current locations.

The important point that NTEU wants everyone to be aware of is that any recommendations that impact office space forthcoming from either working group is subject to negotiation per Article 15. Hence, what you hear, what you read, or what you pick up on the rumor mill in the next three months, none of it will be automatic simply because it is a recommendation. Your work locations and accommodations are all subject to negotiation before anything can be implemented.

Additionally, you can be certain that if proposals do entail the reduction of office space or availability, management’s commitment to TeleWork will have to be on the negotiation table and will have to exceed the lip service that belies the agency’s actual lack of commitment to TeleWork.