SECTION 1. The Parties' Commitment to Bilateral Cooperation
A. The Federal Service Labor Management Relations Statute imposes an obligation upon the parties to bargain in good faith over the impact and implementation of, and in some cases the substance of, changes in working conditions which are proposed by one or the other of the parties during the term of this Agreement. The parties also recognize that pre-decisional involvement in decisions which are traditional management prerogatives may obviate the need for subsequent bargaining over the impact and implementation of management decisions. During the past decade, management has obtained employee input, through NWSEO, prior to making decisions about the structuring of the workforce and the agency’s method of operations. Similarly, the parties have successfully bargained and reached mutual agreement over the restructuring of the NWS during and at the conclusion of the agency’s modernization. The union and the employees’ input has resulted in decision making that has received widespread support within the workforce and has resulted in fewer grievances and improved job satisfaction, as well as better service to the public.
It is the intent of the parties to continue to build on these achievements in bilateral cooperation during the term of this new Agreement. Accordingly, the parties have reexamined the processes by which they have bargained over changes in working conditions during the term of the last agreement and have, in this article, modified those procedures to better effectuate their shared goals.
The parties also recommit themselves to building trust and respect for one another; respecting each other's interests, integrity and motivation; being open to consideration of each other's perspectives and ideas on how to deal with issues; promoting at all levels direct dealing with one another; and sharing information required to make informed decisions, as permitted by law, rule or regulation. Both parties will practice pre-decisional involvement, which is defined as soliciting employee input, through the procedures contained in this article, into decisions which affect them prior to the final decision. Inasmuch as NWSEO has been certified as the exclusive representative of bargaining unit employees, the parties recognize that all employee input will be provided through the appropriate union representatives who will exercise their statutory duty to fairly represent the interests of all employees in the bargaining unit without discrimination.
SECTION 2. Local Office Teams and Labor Councils (General Counsel Advice on Local Negotiations)
1. In order to obtain employee pre-decisional input at the local office level, the parties shall continue to convene "Local Office Teams" or "LOTs" at local field offices, NCEP Centers, Regional Headquarters, and Divisions within the National Headquarters. The LOTs will be co-chaired by the field office MIC/HIC/OIC, Center Director, Deputy Regional Director, or Headquarters Division Chief and the corresponding NWSEO Steward, or their designees. The LOT will usually consist of two members. The principle of equal representation on official time applies. Where a branch does not have a steward, or where an office/unit has no NWSEO members, the Regional Chairperson will designate the respective Regional Councilperson to act in lieu of a steward. Employees may bring issues and concerns to the Councilperson, who will present the issues/concerns to the manager. When a LOT meeting is needed, the Regional Councilperson will either travel to the local branch to interact with employees and management, or subject to time and resources, participate in the LOT meeting via teleconference.
2. There shall also be a Regional Labor Council (RLC) in each of the NWS regions to function as a regional problem solving group and to be a forum for pre-decisional input on decisions affecting the region as a whole or which will impact more than one office in a particular region. The RLC shall be chaired jointly by the NWS Regional Director or his/her designee, and the NWSEO Regional Chairperson or his/her designee. Up to three (3) additional management and three (3) NWSEO representatives may be selected by the respective chairs of the RLC, based on the principle of equal representation on official time.
3. There shall also be a National Labor Council (NLC) which shall consist of the Assistant Administrator for Weather Services or his/her designee, and the President of NWSEO or his/her designee who will jointly chair the Council. Up to three (3) additional management and three (3) NWSEO representatives may be selected by the respective chairs of the NLC, based on the principle of equal representation on official time. The NLC will function as a national problem solving group and as a forum for pre-decisional input on decisions affecting the bargaining unit as a whole or which will impact more than one region.
B. Meeting Schedule and Procedures
1. The LOT shall meet whenever needed. When local management contemplates proposes a change which materially affects office operations or working conditions of bargaining unit employees at the local level, he/she shall request a LOT meeting with the steward and shall place the matter on the meeting’s agenda, which must be prepared in advance. This LOT meeting should be held prior to local management making a final decision on the contemplated changes so that predecisional input can be obtained. Notice of the contemplated change shall be made as far in advance as is practicable. The Steward will be provided with a reasonable opportunity, not to exceed 15 days, to consult with the impacted employees. Any comments or suggestions will be presented to the team representative. If the suggestions or comments apply to an agenda item, they will be considered during team meetings. Whenever the local steward wishes to discuss a proposed change in working conditions or office operations she/he shall request a LOT meeting which shall be conducted promptly.
2. RLC and NLC meetings will be held semi-annually, or more often as determined by mutual agreement of the council/team co-chairs. Meetings will be held at locations mutually agreed to by the council/team, or by tele or video conferencing as also mutually agreed to by the council/team.
3. Any council/team member may submit items to the respective chair for inclusion in the agenda. The agenda will be prioritized by the chairs, and provided to each council/team member no later than two weeks prior to the date of the next scheduled meeting.
1. LOTs, Regional and National Labor Councils shall consist only of union and management representatives. However, each side may call upon experts, including OA/ASC personnel or bargaining unit employees. These experts may answer questions and offer opinions, but they are not team members. Employees in the field office may attend the LOT meeting and present their comments, opinions, and suggestions. LOT and Labor Council members may also invite observers upon prior notice to the other participants. After opinions and or comments are given to the LOT, the guests will leave and the team members will consider the opinions and/or comments and try to reach a decision.
2. Each council/team may create ad-hoc sub-committees or working groups to assist the council/team. However, since such subcommittee or working group members are serving in a representative capacity, only bargaining unit employees who are designated by the union may serve on the subcommittees or working groups, and such participation will be limited to union members. Subcommittees or working groups may also call upon experts, including OA/ASC personnel or other bargaining unit members.
3. All council/team recommendations and decisions will be reached by consensus. If the LOT or RLC does not have the authority to make a decision, recommendations on the particular agenda item will be sent to the next level where it will automatically be placed on the next meeting agenda. Recommendations will be recorded and forwarded promptly to the appropriate official for action. Recommendations that are not adopted will be returned promptly to the council/team with a written explanation of the reasons for non-adoption. The council/team may reconsider, or may use the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or statutory process.
4. Union and Management agree that before either party invokes their right to utilize a third party to resolve a dispute (such as the Federal Service Impasses Panel, or the Federal Labor Relations Authority), serious consideration must be given to utilizing ADR processes agreed to by the parties to assist in reaching consensus and/or agreement. This may include requesting a mediator from the local office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
5. The chair will be responsible for preparing the minutes of each council meeting. In the case of LOT meetings the responsibility for preparation of the minutes shall alternate between the manager and the steward. A copy of the minutes shall be provided to each council/team member within seven days of the meeting and will also be posted on the unit bulletin board.
6. Actions of the LOT or RLC cannot amend or otherwise alter the terms of the collective bargaining agreement or National Memoranda of Understanding (MOU).
D. Administrative Costs
All administrative costs, including travel and per-diem for RLC and NLC members, and in the case of the LOT, for the designated Regional Councilperson, shall be paid by management. Management and NWSEO agree that cost will be considered when scheduling and conducting, LOT, RLC and NLC meetings. Tele and video conference meetings may be used to reduce travel costs.
E. Official Time
NWSEO representatives will be authorized up to a maximum of eight hours of official time to prepare for council/team meetings. Meetings will be scheduled far enough in advance to ensure that work scheduling requirements of the NWS/NWSEO CBA are met. Official time for travel and meetings will be authorized. Additional official time, as jointly determined by the council/team, will also be available for NWSEO representatives who serve on any subcommittee/workgroup that the council/team may establish. Official time authorized herein will be separate from, and in addition to, any official time provided under the terms of the CBA.
Union and Management agree that the effectiveness of this process can be maximized by periodic evaluation and assessment. Therefore, the parties on an annual basis agree to place on the agenda for deliberation assessment of the overall effectiveness of these procedures at both the RLC and NLC levels. The parties may amend this Article by mutual agreement at the NLC level in order to establish better procedures based on their experiences in the prior year.
SECTION 3. Negotiation over Proposed Changes in Conditions of Employment and Fulfillment of the Midterm Bargaining Obligation
A. Changes at the local office level: If a LOT is unable to reach consensus over a management or union proposed change which materially affects working conditions that is limited to the local level, the parties shall complete their bargaining obligation at the Regional level. This may be done in either of two ways. The matter may be placed on the agenda for the next RLC meeting by the party which seeks to make the change in working conditions. In the alternative, the party seeking the change may give the other party notice at the Regional Level of the proposed change and that the LOT was unable to reach a consensus about the change. The other party must respond in writing within 15 days of receipt of this notice indicating whether the proposed change is acceptable, and, if not, offering a written counterproposal. If the proposed change in working conditions is only subject to bargaining over its impact and implementation, the union shall provide written proposals which are addressed specifically to the impact the change will have on unit employees or how it will be implemented.
B. Changes at the Regional Level: (i) Where, during the life of this Agreement, Management proposes a change which materially affects conditions of employment for bargaining unit employees on an NWS Region-wide basis, or in more than one office within the same NWS region, the appropriate Regional Chairperson shall be notified as far as practicable in advance of the proposed effective date. If the Union desires to bargain over any aspect of the proposed regional change, the Union must respond in writing within 15 days of receipt of this notice indicating whether the proposed change is acceptable, and, if not, offering a written counterproposal. If the proposed change in working conditions is only subject to bargaining over its impact and implementation, the union shall provide written proposals which are addressed specifically to the impact the change will have on unit employees or how it will be implemented. (ii) Unless the parties agree otherwise, bargaining over these proposed changes shall take place face to face. Management shall pay travel and per diem for two union negotiators. In the alternative, Management may, at its option, place the matter on the agenda of the next RLC meeting, provided that it does not implement its proposed change in the interim. Face to face bargaining shall take place at the RLC meetings. For those issues that arise between RLC meetings, tele or video conferences may be used to reduce travel costs.
C. Changes at the National Level: (i) Where, during the life of this Agreement, Management proposes a change which materially affects conditions of employment for bargaining unit employees on a nationwide basis, or in more than one NWS region, Management will give the NWSEO President as much advance notice as is practicable in advance of the proposed effective date. If the Union desires to bargain over any aspect of the proposed change, the Union must respond in writing within 15 days of receipt of this notice indicating whether the proposed change is acceptable, and, if not, offering a written counterproposal. If the proposed change in working conditions is only subject to bargaining over its impact and implementation, the union shall provide written proposals which are addressed specifically to the impact the change will have on unit employees or how it will be implemented. (ii) Unless the parties agree otherwise, bargaining over these proposed changes shall take place face to face. Management shall pay travel and per diem for three union negotiators. In the alternative, Management may, at its option, place the matter on the agenda of the next NLC meeting, provided that it does not implement its proposed change in the interim. Face to face bargaining shall take place at the NLC meetings. For those issues that arise between NLC meetings, tele or video conferences may be used to reduce travel costs.
SECTION 4. If NWSEO requests clarification of the proposed changes in conditions of employment at the National, Regional or local level, the request will be made, in writing within seven calendar days after receipt of the notice. In such a case, the 15 calendar day period for NWSEO's submission of proposals will commence upon receipt of Management's response to the request for clarification. Furthermore, if the management proposal is substantively bargainable, the union’s counterproposal may consist of a proposal that the change itself not be made.
SECTION 5. The results of such negotiations under this Article shall be reduced to writing in an MOU and may be subject to ratification by the union’s membership. These results will, in no event, alter, change, amend or conflict with this Agreement unless agreed to at the national level.
SECTION 6. Management will maintain the status quo pending bargaining under this Article unless the Union fails to respond within the time frames contained herein, or except if in doing so, the agency would be continuing an illegal practice, or if there is an overriding exigency. However, it is agreed that when, during the negotiation process either party declares an impasse, and neither party has requested the service of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service within seven (7) working days, Management may effect the proposed changes in accordance with the last proposal made by Management and appropriate notice is given to the Union as to when the changes are intended to be put into effect.
SECTION 7. Any existing non-contractual past practices as of the effective date of this Agreement, which are not contrary to law or government wide regulation, may only be changed through the provisions of this Article.