Federal Grievance Arbitration Practices Need More Management Attention

FPCD-81-23: Published: May 5, 1981. Publicly Released: May 5, 1981.

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With the recent expansion of the Federal labor-management relations program, arbitration has become an important procedure for adjudicating employee grievances. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 effected collective bargaining and arbitration in the Federal sector. It expanded the scope of issues subject to the negotiated grievance procedures and mandated that grievance arbitration be binding. GAO undertook a study to assess the efficiency of agencies' grievance arbitration procedures, including the use of arbitrators under the Act, and to identify areas needing improvements.

The agencies and activities reviewed have not developed formal, systematic methods for monitoring and evaluating their grievance arbitration systems. The activities do not collect the information needed to perform the monitoring functions. As a result, labor-management representatives do not know the number of formal grievances that have been filed and cannot effectively determine which activities are having problems. The Agencies need to account for their grievance arbitration costs to help prevent wasteful expenditures and to better manage their grievance arbitration processes. A number of grievance arbitration procedures currently used in the private sector, which can help reduce costs and timeframes, could be used more often in the Federal sector. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) needs this cost information to monitor agencies' efficiency and, where appropriate, to provide technical assistance. Available training courses do not emphasize the cost-effective practices which can be put to use in the grievance arbitration process. The quality of arbitration decisions can be enhanced if Federal parties select arbitrators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) Federal arbitrator roster. The increasing number of Federal arbitrations requires an expanded Federal sector roster. Because the joint guidelines for labor relations are generally not being followed by agencies, OPM needs to take aggressive steps to assure compliance.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should encourage agencies to (1) attempt negotiating expedited arbitration and consolidated or representative grievance procedures into subsequent labor agreements; (2) use permanent arbitrator panels or permanent umpires for binding grievance resolution; and (3) limit the use of arbitration hearing transcripts and post-hearing briefs.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should require agencies to account for the total costs associated with the grievance arbitration process and to report annually to OPM on these costs. This annual report should include the number of formal grievances filed, number of grievances going to arbitration, arbitration-related costs, and management-related costs.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should require agencies to monitor and evaluate their grievance arbitration processes. OPM should provide technical assistance and guidance to help agencies meet this requirement.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should provide guidance and technical assistance to agencies and management personnel on cost-effective grievance arbitration procedures.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should work with the Director of FMCS to (1) expand the FMCS roster of qualified Federal sector arbitrators; and (2) encourage agencies to routinely request Federal sector arbitrator panels from the FMCS Federal arbitrator roster.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should require agencies to assess their current labor relations training programs, determine their training needs, and provide needed training, especially in the areas of cost-effective grievance arbitration practices. OPM should periodically follow up with agencies to insure compliance. The Director should emphasize to agencies the importance that they should give labor relations training under the requirements of CSRA.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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