Labor-Management Relations:

Tennessee Valley Authority Situation Needs to Improve

GGD-91-129: Published: Sep 26, 1991. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) labor-management relations, focusing on: (1) the basis for TVA exemption from federal labor relations laws that apply to most other federal agencies; and (2) alternatives for improving TVA labor-management relations.

GAO found that: (1) TVA employees collectively bargained with TVA management through TVA policy rather than by law; (2) under TVA policy, its employees and their unions have such advantages over other federal agencies covered by labor relations law as the ability to bargain for wages; (3) although the TVA bargaining structure includes some provisions common to federal labor relations laws, TVA employees and their unions lack basic rights and protections that are guaranteed under law to employees in most other private and federal organizations, including the statutory right to collectively bargain and use certain avenues for resolving disputes; (4) TVA labor relations deteriorated in the past decade due to unions' beliefs that the collective bargaining process was inadequate; (5) unfavorable economic conditions caused TVA management to reduce and realign its work force and take a stricter bargaining position, causing management and unions greater difficulty in agreeing on pay and other proposals; (6) union representatives believed that TVA management unfairly used its bargaining position to obtain concessions by threatening to cancel bargaining agreements when negotiations became stymied; and (7) union representatives believed that petitioning to Congress or the courts was the only recourse for resolving negotiation deadlocks.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: After receiving the TVA progress report, Congress may wish to determine if the cooperative approach is workable. If the approach is found to be unworkable, Congress should consider providing TVA management and employees with bargaining rights, obligations, and protections similar to those applicable to most other organizations, including standards of conduct.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: TVA and unions have resolved all issues. No congressional action is needed.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: TVA and the parties should determine whether an independent party, such as DOL or the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), can assist in making this approach successful and, if so, arrange for this outside assistance.

    Agency Affected: Tennessee Valley Authority

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TVA used DOL and FMCS to assist in successful Win-Win negotiations.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the TVA Board of Directors should take the initiative in working to reinstate a voluntary, cooperative approach to collective bargaining among all the parties concerned. Following this approach, TVA and the labor organizations should work with the Department of Labor (DOL) to develop better criteria and procedures for resolving wage disputes in a timely manner that are referred to DOL under the TVA act.

    Agency Affected: Tennessee Valley Authority

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TVA used DOL to resolve the issues which should eliminate referrals of wage disputes to DOL.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the TVA Board of Directors should take the initiative in working to reinstate a voluntary, cooperative approach to collective bargaining among all the parties concerned. Following this approach, TVA and the labor organizations should attempt to reach agreement on a framework for collective bargaining that is considered fair to all the parties and that includes administrative procedures and mechanisms to be available to all the parties for resolving negotiation deadlocks.

    Agency Affected: Tennessee Valley Authority

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TVA has negotiated a new framework for collective bargaining that is satisfactory to management, the unions, and the congressional requesters.

    Recommendation: Within 6 months from the date of this report, the parties should assess their progress and TVA should report to Congress on the progress made in addressing concerns about: (1) uneven bargaining positions; and (2) unlimited avenues for resolving disputes. TVA should include the views of both the Salary Policy and Employee Panel and the Tennessee Valley Trades and Labor Council in its report.

    Agency Affected: Tennessee Valley Authority

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TVA and Labor organizations have negotiations underway. As recommended, TVA sent its report to Congress on March 25, 1992, and a final report in May 1992. The reports included Panel and Council views.

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