Labor Board Begins Making Buyout Offers (1)

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By Hassan A. Kanu

The National Labor Relations Board will begin rolling out buyout and early retirement offers to staffers today, according to sources familiar with the process.

Almost all of the offers will be targeted to the board’s front-line staff in about 26 regional offices across the country. Eligible employees who receive offers will have just about a month to decide whether to accept or reject.

NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb and other agency heads say further staff reductions are necessary because of anticipated cuts to the budget next fiscal year. Congress has funded the agency at the same level for the last four years. A proposal to cut NLRB funding by about 5 percent next year is pending in the House, while a Senate version of the bill would keep funding flat again, at $274 million.

Agency staffers and union representatives have complained that the board is already understaffed and lost about 20 percent of its field staff in recent years due to budget cuts. They say the buyouts, which are being pushed by Robb, could hamper the agency’s ability to serve the public.

The NLRB didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

“For years, the deficits caused by flat funding of the Agency have been primarily addressed by voluntary personnel attrition,” the board said in an Aug. 7 announcement. “As a result, the NLRB has an imbalance in staffing in both headquarters and the NLRB’s regional offices” and is utilizing the offer to “ensure that the Agency is able to carry out its critical mission.”

A ‘First Step’

The federal labor board safeguards employees’ rights to organize and decide whether to have a union in their workplace. It also adjudicates unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

Union representatives told Bloomberg Law that the cuts are targeted to field offices, even though they are more severely understaffed in comparison to the NLRB headquarters in Washington. They say they’re only aware of one staff member at headquarters who’ll receive an offer. The NLRB didn’t respond to an inquiry about the numbers of cuts to field staff versus those at headquarters.

“We are undertaking these initiatives to address staffing imbalances and as the first step toward repositioning the agency to better carry out our mission,” NLRB Chairman John Ring (R) and Robb wrote in an Aug. 7 email obtained by Bloomberg Law.

“Whether you receive a VERA/VSIP offer notice is determined by staffing level decisions and should not be viewed as an indicator of your value or importance to the Agency,” they said.

Federal agencies that are downsizing or restructuring can offer buyouts and “early outs” to eligible employees. The early out program under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority expands retirement eligibility to certain employees in particular position grades. The government’s Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments buyout program allows the agency to offer up to $25,000 for voluntary exits.

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