Tens of thousands of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) workers will be forced to work under a ”collective agreement” (CBA) imposed on them by the Trump administration. While the department calls it an agreement, it is not, it is rather a unilateral contract. In a letter from USDA Commissioner General Stephen Vaden, the department says the union does not want to agree on a succession contract, so it has no choice but to implement the new collective agreement. A majority of ERS and NIFA workers had voted in favour of creating tariff units before the announcement of an official website. AFGE had told employees at the time that they probably could not completely block the USDA`s move, but pledged to give staff more voice in the move. In a memo to be released Thursday in the Federal Register, the Federal Labour Relations Agency said it had been asked by the Department of Agriculture to clarify rules for an opaque part of the collective bargaining process, as third-party arbitrators cited various FLRA precedents on the issue. The agreements do not guarantee additional benefits for offshoring staff, but they do describe the conditions and a specific way for employees to request flexibility. UNIONS CAN`T CHALLENGE As Trump tries to introduce these agreements between governments, unions are largely barred from challenging them. In addition, ERS and NIFA have agreed to provide temporary accommodation for up to 60 days for employees agreeing to a USDA relocation.
Workers can apply for a further 60-day extension, in accordance with trade union agreements. Both the department and the union began negotiations on the relocation of the USDA about a month after Agriculture Minister Sonny Perdue of Kansas City announced as a new site for ERS and NIFA headquarters. When a union and agency decide to enter into a new collective agreement, the existing or expiring contract is automatically renewed until they can ratify and implement the new contract. If the existing contract is subject to review by the head of the agency, management would be able to unilaterally focus provisions of the old treaty, provided that these provisions are contrary to new laws or regulations implemented after the initial ratification of the treaty. ”AFGE is surprised and disappointed that the USDA is making this request. It is not in accordance with the law or the facts. We are already negotiating a new contract for USDA food safety inspectors. The current treaty, approved by the USDA, clearly states that the existing agreement will remain in effect until a new agreement is signed,” Everett Kelley, national secretary of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement.
In recent weeks, FLRA has rejected a number of requests for ”general policy or policy statements” aimed at reducing the bargaining obligations of the agencies most requested by the Ministry of Agriculture. This requirement appears to be different in that it does highlight a discrepancy in the interpretation of federal labour law by some independent arbitrators, in particular a ”continuity provision. ” The agency, which regulates relations between employment services within the federal government, is seeking information on what will happen to existing union contracts, as workers` groups and federal authorities negotiate a new collective agreement.