Federal Labor Relations:

A Program in Need of Reform

GGD-91-101: Published: Jul 30, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 1991.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Federal Labor-Management Relations Program to determine if changes were needed to make it operate more effectively and efficiently.

GAO found that: (1) 29 of the 30 federal labor-management experts GAO surveyed noted that collective bargaining in the government was too legalistic and adversarial, and too often led to litigation over procedural matters on minor disputes; (2) the experts also noted that some dispute resolution mechanisms were too slow, lengthy, and complex, and that ineffective Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) management has weakened the federal labor-management relations program; (3) more than two-thirds of the experts supported an agency shop approach, which requires employees to pay fees to the unions that represent them even if they do belong to the union; (4) over half of the agency officials opposed any bargaining changes, but all union officials and over 80 percent of neutrals supported increased bargaining rights; (5) more than three-fourths of union officials and neutrals believed that labor relations was a low priority for federal agencies and was not well integrated into agency operations, but the majority of agency officials disagreed; (6) agency officials and most neutrals believed unions filed too many unfair labor practice charges over minor issues, but union officials believed that FLRA failed to order strong remedies to deter statute violations by agency officials; (7) agency and union representatives tended to agree with their respective headquarters' program assessments, but they differed widely in their view of how well programs worked at the local level; and (8) more than 65 percent of the agency and union respondents reported that their installations and offices had participated in cooperative labor-management initiatives and most respondents stated that they wanted to be involved in future cooperative efforts.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The committee held hearings on November 19, 1991. The committee has not taken any further action. Making extensive use of the GAO federal labor relations report, the National Performance Review recommended that a National Partnership Council be formed. The Council was created in October 1993 by Executive Order 12871. Its members include representatives of the three largest federal employee unions, the Public Employee Department of the AFL-CIO, and seven federal agencies. Among its responsibilities are supporting the creation of labor-management partnerships and proposing legislative changes related to federal labor relations. In its January 1994 report to the President, the Council proposed recommendations for statutory reform of the federal labor relations program. Many local labor-management partnerships are in place, with more anticipated. GAO's goal of labor-management reform has not occurred, but many actions toward this goal have been taken and GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Matter: A panel of national recognized experts in labor-management relations matters and program participants should be established to develop a proposal for comprehensive program reform. As a first step, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service should hold hearings on the state of the program.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Committee never initiated action. Making extensive use of the GAO federal labor relations report, the National Performance Review recommended that a National Partnership Council be formed. The Council was created in October 1993 by Executive Order 12871. Its members include representatives of the three largest federal employee unions, the Public Employee Department of the AFL-CIO, and seven federal agencies. Among its responsibilities are supporting the creation of labor-management partnerships and proposing legislative changes related to federal labor relations. In its January 1994 report to the President, the Council proposed recommendations for statutory reform of the federal labor relations program. Many local labor-management partnerships are in place and more are anticipated. While GAO's goal of labor-management reform has not occurred, many actions toward this goal have been taken and GAO is closing the recommendation.

    Matter: A panel of national recognized experts in labor-management relations matters and program participants should be established to develop a proposal for comprehensive program reform. As a first step, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service should hold hearings on the state of the program.

 

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