The parties met for three days on April 24, 25, and 26, 2013. Negotiations continued to narrow issues as the parties made more headway on important non-economic subjects prior to the pivotal economic items to come.
Progress on Several Articles
Article 8 Overtime: The parties reached agreement on a new comp time provision. CSEA agreed to provide the option of compensation time in lieu of overtime for non-exempt employees. The time must be taken in the same pay period that it is earned in order to be legal under federal law.
Article 9 Vacations: The parties agreed on status quo. CSEA also provided assurances that when it is necessary to cancel a vacation for emergency reasons it will reimburse the employee for any non-refundable vacation costs incurred by the cancellation. CSEA declined to agree to put this in the contract without specific examples when non-refundable vacation costs were not reimbursed in the past.
Article 10 Leaves of Absence: Effort has been made by both parties to clarify the rights and obligations of the parties regarding suspected sick leave abuse including when it is appropriate to issue a “warning letter” at 10.2.3, and to limit employer medical exams at 10.4.2 to comport with existing law.
Article 15 Job Reclassification: CSEA withdrew its proposals to significantly alter the reclass process and authority of the Panel. The parties agreed to status quo but for a change in the month when reclassification requests must be submitted and the month when the Panel will meet. Requests will now be accepted in January (rather than August) and the Panel will meet in February (rather than September) to better accommodate the CSEA budget cycle. CSEA also agreed to “do the right thing” and implement the 2012 Panel decision retroactive to the applicable date for the member who has been waiting for the range increase since November 1, 2012.
Article 17 Discipline: Agreement has been reached on improvements to Article 17 including the definition of discipline consistent with progressive disciplinary principles but no T.A. has yet been signed. A Side Letter of Agreement was reached that clarifies that a letter of warning is not a form of discipline and that Operating Procedure 2A will be modified to reflect that agreement. (Op 2A currently states “letter of warning/reprimand” that has created confusion whether a letter of warning has the same disciplinary force as a written reprimand.) It is hoped that the side letter can expedite resolution of pending grievances on the issue of the disciplinary meaning of a letter of warning. It is now clarified that the letter of warning serves as notice of future expectation for which non-compliance could result in discipline. It is not disciplinary itself. The letter does not go in the personnel file.
Article 19 Grievance Procedure: Agreement on significant revisions to the grievance process was reached but time constraints prohibited the actual execution of a signed T.A. which will be forthcoming. The limitations period for filing a grievance remains four (4) months and the arbitration level is completely revamped to include two arbitration panels: one for all disciplinary grievances and one for all non-disciplinary grievances. Both parties shared the desire to make the grievance process more efficient. Major effort was expended by both CSEA and AEU to succeed in this goal.
Article 29 Personnel Records and Performance Evaluation: Agreement was reached to clarify that training needs may require testing and examination which are not to be used for discipline, pay raises, or transfers and shall not be placed in the employee's personnel file. CSEA provided lengthy explanation regarding its affidavit to the NLRB that prior testing was for assessment of training needs and/or professional development of the employee and that such examinations were never intended to be used for disciplinary purposes.
Anti Workplace Bullying: A Side Letter was reached to establish a joint AEU/CSEA committee to develop and recommend a procedure to prevent workplace bullying to the Executive Director. DFO Pace underscored that ED Low does not want a culture of bullying at CSEA. AEU had previously presented survey statistics that reflected significant concern about the rising incidents of workplace bullying by management, co-workers and CSEA members. AEU is encouraged that CSEA has taken the initiative to get out front of this problem by agreeing to the joint committee. The work of the committee is scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2013.
Meal Reimbursement: CSEA further acknowledged the appropriateness of consistent meal reimbursement standards but also maintained that management has considerable discretion outside any set parameters under Operating Procedure 6.
Difficult Issues Remain
Workload: The parties engaged in extensive discussion on workload issues mostly aimed at the field. CSEA believes there are no “coverage” issues for LRR’s. When on vacation, DFO Pace said that the LRR should basically shut down their service area but for emergency matters that may arise which will be addressed by the field director. CSEA asserted that the LRR can apply Article 7.12 to address service area workload issues with the field director. DFO Keith Pace stated that if and when a field director fails to work with the LRR under 7.12 “he wants to know about it.” Pace believes the LRR should be more pro-active in addressing his/her legitimate workload issues. AEU continues to seek agreement on new language at Article 26 (Transfers, Promotions and Demotions) that permits the parties to timely meet and discuss workload issues caused by vacancies that are not filled within 30 days without unnecessary dispute.
In Lieu Days: CSEA maintained its position that it does not have to order an in lieu day when the employee fails to timely schedule and take the day and that the day could be lost. DFO Keith Pace believes that the onus is on the employee to take the day in a “use it or lose it” approach. CSEA asserted that 90 days, in addition to the potential extension of 30 days currently stated in the contract, is sufficient time.
Donated Sick Leave: CSEA continued to reject AEU’s proposal to incorporate donated sick leave eligibility criteria in existence since 1990 into the contract. It is the position of current CSEA management that it is under no obligation to divulge the internal criteria it uses to determine who will or won’t be granted donated sick leave under the “mutual agreement” requirement at Article 10.3.3. It is AEU’s position that the employee who has earned the sick leave should determine who they wish to donate it to when uniform criteria is met. AEU does not believe that the job security provided by this type of leave when a person is medically disabled should be related in any way to whether the current CSEA management “likes” an employee or not, or whether in their view, an employee is “a good employee” especially when poor performance is not documented in the personnel file. AEU further does not agree that CSEA management should have unfettered discretion by refusing to agree to established eligibility criteria. Such a position appears inconsistent with most CSEA member contracts incorporating this subject.
AEU anticipates further polling of the membership on these and other issues prior to the commencement of the next bargaining session on May 15, 2013.
Economic Issues to Come
After some five weeks of negotiations, the parties will meet on the next available date of May 15th. The parties will address the remaining non-economic issues and the important and pivotal economic issues and concerns. We anticipate providing the membership with a complete update after the 15th. The parties have also scheduled additional dates for bargaining on May 28, 29th as needed.