NLRB to Renegotiate 15-Year-Old Union Contract With Staffers

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By Hassan A. Kanu

The federal agency that adjudicates disputes between businesses and their workers will renegotiate an existing collective contract with its own employees union for the first time in at least 15 years.

National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb informed union representatives yesterday that he plans “to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Office of the General Counsel” and professional staff at headquarters, according to agency communications obtained by Bloomberg Law.

The move is essentially notice that the board’s top prosecutor would like to revisit the employment terms for agency workers under his authority. Other NLRB workers are technically employees of the board’s three sitting members and chairman. It comes as Robb is also weighing various moves to reorganize the agency’s field operations, including through buyouts.

Adam Naill, Legislative Affairs Director for the NLRB Professional Association, told Bloomberg Law Aug. 9 that a renegotiation is likely aimed at implementing directives from President Donald Trump regarding federal employees’ unions. Those directives, which includes an executive order that makes it easier to fire federal workers, are likely to result in lesser benefits and job protections for NLRB staffers, Naill said.

“They are trying to cripple our union and make it easier for the President’s political appointees to fire civil servants without any due process,” Naill said.

The NLRB and Robb declined to comment.

Former NLRB General Counsel Jerry Hunter, who represents businesses in labor-management disputes, said personnel and office property costs account for the overwhelming majority of the board’s budget.

“They don’t have a whole lot of flexibility,” Hunter said. “One of the only ways to keep the agency’s costs down is by reducing personnel.”

Naill told Bloomberg Law that it’s possible that the CBAs that cover the rest of the board’s employees will be renegotiated as well.

Other Changes

Trump’s executive orders are currently being challenged by several federal unions, including the NLRBPA and the NLRB Union, which represents board employees outside of Washington, D.C.

Robb announced broad reorganization proposals soon after taking his post, and proposed a buyout of a portion of the staff that’s been approved by the board’s three Republican members. The general counsel suggested moves to shorten investigations, emphasize settlements, and impose strict deadlines on workers, unions, and businesses filing labor complaints.

Robb’s proposals have caused concern among staffers, some of whom have suggested that the moves are aimed at limiting agency business and consolidating power in his own branch of the agency. Robb has said the moves are designed to deal with a shrinking budget, inefficiencies in filed offices and reductions in the agency’s annual caseload.

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