FAA child care subsidy program
The Federal Aviation Administration has notified employees of the implementation of its child care subsidy program. But NATCA bargaining unit employees are not eligible at this time. Here's the story:
NATCA originally proposed this program during contract negotiations in 2005-2006, at which time it was "rejected on its merits" by the Agency. In other words, the FAA wanted nothing to do with it when NATCA proposed it during negotiations. The Agency then came out with a policy for all FAA employees, loosely based on our proposal at the table.
The Agency had already chosen a program and contracted with a vendor before even notifying NATCA that this was taking place. NATCA refuses to knuckle under to the Agency's tactics of trying to force the union to accept its terms without any negotiation. It is NATCA?s right, and the FAA?s legal obligation, to bargain over any change to working conditions.
NATCA was only able to have two meetings with the FAA in the space of a few weeks before the Agency implemented the program, despite the parties' ongoing negotiations. NATCA also attempted to negotiate separating out a portion of the available funds for NATCA-represented employees only, in order to avoid this situation and complete bargaining, but the Agency would not agree to do so. The FAA implemented the program without reaching an agreement with NATCA so, thus far, the program only applies to non-NATCA represented FAA employees.
In our view, the FAA deliberately set up the situation to avoid negotiations and deprive NATCA members of an Agency-wide benefit this year.
The primary issue still in dispute is that the FAA designed the program as first-come, first-served, rather than using a needs based assessment. This is an inequitable method of distributing the allotted Child Care subsidy funds, because it doesn?t give the money out based on actual need. Second, NATCA seeks to bind the Agency to funding the program for four (4) years barring budgetary constraints. The Agency refuses to give up any of its so-called ?management rights? even though we put in the language about budgetary constraints.
NATCA does not see this as a useful program if it can be unilaterally discontinued by the Agency at any time without notice. As usual, the Agency is trying to maintain total and complete control and is unwilling to negotiate fairly on this point.
At this time, we believe we have reached impasse on this issue with the Agency. The next step is to request Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) assistance. The FMCS will attempt to resolve our issues, and if it cannot, release the parties from mediation. The Federal Service Impasses Panel's (FSIP) jurisdiction over impasses between the parties is the subject of ongoing litigation, so at this time NATCA does not know what format of impasse resolution may take place in this case.
Because we believe the Agency bargained in bad faith and is deliberately implementing the program without reaching an agreement with NATCA, we are also going to file Unfair Labor Practice charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. We believe the Agency?s actions constitute an attempt to force us to accept its terms or be denied program funds for the employees we represent, and we will ask the FLRA to appropriately remedy this situation.
Despite the distribution of the flyer to all employees, NATCA bargaining unit employees are not eligible for the Child Care subsidy plan at this time. The Agency has precipitated this by creating the program and obtaining a vendor to administer it before ever seeking to bargain with NATCA. The Agency will be taking applications on a first-come, first-served basis and funding them immediately, so NATCA members will likely not see a penny of the program money this year due to the Agency?s unlawful union-busting tactics.
It is unfortunate that this new benefit will not be available to NATCA bargaining unit employees at this time, but to accept without negotiations the Agency?s unilateral policy would be to roll over in the face of the Agency's heavy-handed tactics and bad faith bargaining. Further, it would forever undermine NATCA's ability to negotiate the substance of new benefits and place NATCA in the position of rubberstamping FAA's programs.
As we proceed with the dispute, NATCA will keep its members updated on this issue. It is a deep regret that this situation may prevent NATCA-represented employees from receiving the benefit of this program this year, but the Agency?s bad faith and attempts to ram this policy down our throats without proper negotiations are the reasons we are at this impasse.