NWSEO wins Appeal - NWSEO to Bargain to Increase Staffing at Anchorage WFO by 10 Positions
On Tuesday, March 16, 2010, the Federal Labor Relations Authority reversed its earlier decision and sustained NWSEO's negotiability appeal in the Anchorage WFO case. This directs the National Weather Service to bargain with NWSEO over a proposal that would increase staffing at the Anchorage WFO by ten positions.
In 2004, NWSEO proposed that the NWS increase staffing at WFO ANC by 5 forecasters, 4 HMTs, and an IT because the staff at that office was assigned responsibility for two domains under IFPS. Although staffing levels is usually a management prerogative over which it is not obligated to bargain, the union claimed that the proposal to increase staffing at WFO ANC was an "appropriate arrangement" for employees at the office who were adversely impacted by the increased workload attendant on assuming responsibility for issuing forecast products for two domains. Such "appropriate arrangements" are negotiable even if it interferes with management's rights, provided it does not "excessively interfere." NWSEO filed an appeal with the FLRA seeking an order requiring the NWS to bargain overt the proposal.
In 2005, the FLRA held that NWSEO's proposal was not negotiable because it found, for erroneous reasons, that the proposal "excessively interfered" with NWS's management rights. We then filed an appeal of the FLRA's decision in the United States Court of Appeals which ruled, in 2006, that the FLRA used an incorrect legal standard for determining whether a union proposal "excessively interferes" with management's right. The Court of Appeals ruled that a Federal agency must demonstrate that a proposed appropriate arrangement "significantly hampers the ability of an agency to get its job done," otherwise the agency is required to negotiate over it, even if it interferes with management's rights. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the FLRA for reconsideration under this new legal standard for determining whether a proposal "excessively interferes." We filed a supplemental submission to the FLRA explaining, in short, that an increase in staffing would assist, rather than hamper, the ability of the NWS to issue timely and reliable forecasts for the people of Alaska.
After a four year wait, the FLRA has now reconsidered its earlier decision and ruled in NWSEO's favor, it ruled as "the law of the case" that NWSEO’s proposal did not "significantly hamper" the ability of the NWS to "get its work done," and therefore did not "excessively interfere" with management's rights, and was therefore negotiable. The FLRA has directed the NWS to negotiate over NWSEO’s proposal.