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CHAPTER CHATTER - June 13, 2013

As we approach a busy summer of negotiations beginning next week, we wanted to give you a recap of items we will be dealing with, both with respect to Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and issues discussed in the Labor Management Forum. Once the negotiations begin, we may go somewhat dark on this publication, unless issues develop in the interim that do not  relate to negotiation items.  

Specific items in today's Chatter include:

Student Loan Repayment Program
Public Transit Subsidy
Recurring TeleWorking
A Resounding Win for NTEU
National Seating Policy
OCC Issues Update- June 2013
    • Collective Bargaining Agreement
    • Discontinuation of secondary (personal hard drives)
    • Portable Monitors
    • Performance Metrics

If anyone has any type of feedback, your Chapter Presidents are listed on the Chapter Officers page.  Please pass along your feedback to them, and we shall include them in the next Chapter Chatter.

Student Loan Repayment Program 

It is a great disappointment to announce that the Human Capital Subcommittee (HCS) elected not to recommend to the Comptroller the adoption of the program submitted by the Student Loan Repayment Program Group (SLRPG), a working group set up under the initial agreement on compensation.  The only rationale provided was the concerns raised by some employees and managers about the fairness and equity of offering such a benefit to a limited segment of the workforce.  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 the SEC that NTEU negotiated several years ago.  It has been highly effective in new hire retention. 

First, NTEU would like to extend a sincere “THANKS” to the SLRPG.  The group put forth a monumental effort in gathering data in support of the program.  They quantified the training costs associated with every new examiner from start date to commission.  They also quantified the loss to the agency of hundreds of thousands of dollars for every single examiner lost during the second to sixth years of employment.  NTEU believes the SLRPG effectively demonstrated significant cost savings to the agency that would accrue over years after the program’s implementation, based on current attrition rates of non-commissioned examiners.  While OCC management acknowledged these cost savings and still decided not to offer any type of program, NTEU views the current setback as the start of a conversation regarding retention incentives. 

And second, as part of the ongoing dialogue, NTEU asks you to consider the following targeted population, incentive programs/benefits:

1.       Relocation bonuses

2.       “In lieu of” moving allowances

3.       Geo Pay

4.       Public Transit Subsidy

5.       Parking subsidy

6.       Subsidized cafeteria costs (no longer available at HQ)

7.       Subsidized fitness center membership 

8.        Retention bonuses (per PPM 3110-30 rev)

9.        TeleWork

10.    Blackberries

11.    Recruitment bonuses

As you can appreciate, the OCC extends all the above programs/benefits to specific or limited segments of the workforce.  Think about this:

I am positive that over 100 years ago when they increased the amount of per diem examiners got reimbursed for the care and feeding of their horses, it was met with cries of “that’s unfair". Probably any new benefit that has been implemented in the 150 years of the OCC has been greeted with employees who say “that’s unfair”.  Let’s not kid ourselves, that means " that benefit wasn't available when I needed it, so I don’t want anyone else to have it”. And that is not a valid basis for making a decision on this  or any other program.” 

Public Transit Subsidy  

On February 5, 2013, everyone received a Systems News blast announcing:

“The maximum allowable monthly public transportation subsidy for 2013 has been adjusted to $245. The OCC is working with the Department of Transportation, our program administrator, to implement the new subsidy. The OCC is also working with the NTEU in order to satisfy its bargaining obligation.

The new subsidy amount will be available to OCC employees participating in the transit subsidy program beginning in March 2013.  Although the new maximum authorized by the Taxpayer Relief Act replaces the previous $125 limit, any increase for program participants will continue to be based on actual commuting costs.”

What the announcement did not say, NTEU pointed out

“The fiscal cliff deal approved by both the House and Senate includes NTEU-supported language that would reinstate parity between the transit and parking portions of the commuter benefit through 2013 and make it retroactive to January 1, 2012.”

NTEU approached OCC management concerning the retroactive stipulation in the bill passed, restoring previous subsidy levels.  They said they did not know whether they could legally do so, but they were awaiting further guidance from Treasury Chief Counsel on this.

Meanwhile, another FIRREA agency is in the process of working out the logistics for reimbursing those employees who participate in the Transit Subsidy benefit.  There was no need to negotiate over retroactive reimbursement of the difference to the Transit Subsidy participants with this agency, because their Compensation Agreement contains a provision requiring compensation up to the agency maximum limit.  NTEU simply indicated that they expect this agency to make retroactive benefits reimbursement to all qualified employees who participate in the Transit Subsidy initiative.  So, employees will receive the difference between the $125.00 and up to $245.00 (based on benefits applied for by each employee) retroactive to January 1, 2012.   

While our CBA does not have the specific language as this agency does, NTEU continues to encourage the OCC to follow suit with the reimbursements.

Recurring TeleWork

In late April, everyone received their 2013 Personalized Compensation and Benefits Statements (PCBS).  Buried deep in the Other Benefits section of this document was a short paragraph on TeleWork that redefined what Recurring TeleWork is:

  • Recurring – For specific, recurring tasks suitable to be handled outside the office or bank setting for up to one day a week.

We immediately brought this to management’s attention.  While this limitation on recurring TeleWork was once part of Article 19, Section 2 of the CBA, it was removed when we renegotiated this article in 2010. Thus, it has been over 2 ½ years since this limitation has been in effect.  The parties specifically bargained that there would be no artificial or arbitrary limitations on number of days of recurring TeleWork per week or per pay period.

The PCBS goes to every single OCC employee.  As phrased, this presents itself as an artificial barrier if a supervisor or manager chooses to seize upon this document, totally in error, as a statement of policy. 

Under Pay and Benefits in the May 13, 2013 What’s New, we saw:

By now you should have received your 2013 Personalized Compensation andBenefits Statements that includes detailed information to help you achieve your financial goals, as well as information about your benefit programs.  There is a correction on page 13 regarding recurring telework. The statement should read “For specific, recurring tasks suitable to be handled outside the office or bank setting.”  For more information, see the Telework OMAAG.   Apologies for any confusion.

Management issued this statement a few days after we brought this to their attention.  Simply put, they restated the sentence, leaving off "for up to one day a week." Before doing so, we had been given assurances that this specific ‘time restriction’ statement was an oversight and unintentional.  

A Resounding Win for NTEU

Several moves/construction/renovation projects occurred at the OCC over the past 12+ months in various districts and field offices across the country.  Some projects are still works in progress.  Chapter 299 in the Northeastern District Office is no exception.  Construction and subsequent physical moves of Bargaining Unit (BU) employees affected two divisions in particular.

Because there would be movements of BU employees to other locations, NTEU requested information regarding their length of service in order to determine the proper order for seat selection.  OCC management refused to provide such information to NTEU that, in the final analysis, only affected four employees in one business unit.  Management contended that they could not provide such information – that is, Enter on Duty (EOD) date –because it does not exist.  (Coincidentally, management provided exactly such information a short time earlier to another Chapter that was in a similar position.)  On behalf of Chapter 299, NTEU proceeded with the seat selection order of priority based on an informal survey of the four individuals impacted and allowed seat selection in accordance with those four individuals’ agreement – for the purposes of this unit’s move ONLY. 

OCC’s position was that Service Computation Date (SCD) is the appropriate means by which to determine the order of seat selections.  The Union’s position is that the EOD date, which reflects the last hire date for employees, is more appropriate because it rewards employees who have a history of continuous service to the OCC or OTS (and its predecessor agencies).  SCD for leave purposes, which was the Agency’s position, favors employees who have taken advantage of the revolving door or have agency-hopped during their careers.

As NTEU and OCC were at impasse, NTEU sought resolution through the Federal Services Impasse Panel (FSIP).  In addition, as part of this arbitration, NTEU sought FSIP’s determination pertaining to NTEU’s position on permanent part-time employees and their ranking in the seat selection process.  OCC management contended that permanent part-time employees should be treated the same as permanent full-time employees. 

In its consideration of all evidence and arguments presented by both parties, FSIP agreed rather quickly with NTEU’s position that seat selection should be based on

Band Level, Enter on Duty Date, and full-time before permanent part-time (temporary part-time employees are not affected).

By its decision, FSIP recognized that NTEU spoke for the interests of the employees.  If you want to see the details and full rationale provided in this decision, check out the decision document at:

http://www.flra.gov/node/16274


National Seating Policy

We should also add that the NTEU and OCC management have been at odds on a National Seating policy for well over a year.  The issue resolved above is one of several components necessary in formulating such a policy.  As you may appreciate, the agency has four principal environments: HQ, District Offices, Field Offices, and Large Bank locations.  In HQ, you will find a larger occurrence of employees with greater federal service than OCC service.  In Large Banks (and more recently in MCBS), there is growing number of industry, non-federal service, employees.  While there are several common denominator factors that we can apply universally, no single policy could fit all OCC offices. 


OCC Issues Update- June 2013

1.    Contract/Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)  

CBA negotiations begin in Washington next Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Management previously informed NTEU 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. 

While you will hear little about these negotiations until we conclude them, we can assure you that, in addition to some of the issues we discussed in our last Chapter Chatter (April 25th), your NTEU officers have reviewed every Article in the CBA, and we anticipate productive negotiations.


2.    Discontinuation of secondary (personal) hard drives

Many of you have now gone through the PC Refresh process. For those who have, you probably noticed we were not issued personal hard drives, as was the past practice. OCC management cited security concerns, as the principal reason for not continuing the practice. They also said they did not believe traveling employees needed this benefit any longer, as most have iPads or similar personal devices they carry. Since the discontinuation of the personal drives resulted in a significant cost saving to the OCC, NTEU proposed those funds be returned to traveling employees to defer the cost of having to purchase personal devices to conduct personal business while away from home. We are disappointed to report the OCC rejected this proposal.

3.    Portable Monitors for field staff 


Some of you may have seen or had a chance to use the Lenovo portable secondary monitors that were piloted over a year ago. Test results were very positive from virtually everyone who tried them. Given the critical need by field staff for this equipment, we were surprised they were not included in the PC Refresh process. We were first told the monitors would not be deployed until 2014 due to budget issues. NTEU has continued to advocate for these monitors. Management now says the monitors may be deployed in late Summer or early Fall of this year.  (Early fall would include right after the fiscal year end to include in the 2014 budget.)

4.    Other Pending Issues

a.    Performance Metrics: As we mentioned in our last Chapter Chatter, NTEU 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 have discussed this in three Labor Management Forum (LMF) meetings now, the latest on June 5, 2013. First, management stated that they pushed no metrics down to employees below the manager level. Then, then they stated that they had not introduced or added new metrics during the current fiscal year. All along, NTEU has been discussing metrics that management incorporated into the 2013 performance plans in certain business lines without any pre-decisional involvement or discussion with the Union. The performance plan templates were obviously prepared well in advance of October 2012.

Performance Metrics Training for managers begins this week. This suggests two possibilities: (1) managers require training on how to use metrics for employee evaluations on 2013 performance; or (2) managers require training for performance metrics that will be implemented for 2014. In either case, NTEU remains completely out of the loop on a pre-decisional basis.

b.      Credit Card policy (Large Banks):  no status change since our April 25, 2013 Chapter Chatter

c.       Dividend Reinvestment Programs: no status change since our April 25, 2013 Chapter Chatter.

d.      Termination of Resource Group:  no status change since our April 25, 2013 Chapter Chatter.   

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