ALEXANDRIA, Va.-With complaints ranging from unfair pay to unequal treatment by supervisors, NCUA employees are looking to organize a union. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which has helped organize other federal regulatory employees like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and is currently at work on the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has been in communication with NCUA employees regarding their grievances. One NCUA employee, who spoke with Credit Union Times on the grounds of anonymity, said that she had never belonged to a union, but added, “I’m sure it can’t hurt us.” This particular employee’s complaint was about pay. In an effort to save the agency money last year, NCUA implemented a pay raise system that involved providing half a pay raise as a lump sum bonus at the beginning of the year and spreading the rest throughout the year. The ultimate effect decreases the salary amount that next year’s raise is based on and also lowers retirement pay. “We had no say in that at all.” she said. “They need to see that we need to be taken seriously and not as a joke.” The employee said that NCUA plans to use the same system for fiscal year 2003. NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar defended the agency’s position, stating, “I believe NCUA has done an outstanding job of improving pay and benefits for our employees over the past few years. I am quite proud of our impressive record of accomplishment in that regard; however, I recognize the right of any employee to pursue union affiliation if he or she believes that it is necessary. This is America and the law specifies the right to seek union representation. As always, NCUA will comply with the law fully and will continue to respect our employees’ rights.” The national credit union trade associations acknowledged NCUA employees’ right to organize but expressed concern over how it could impact the agency budget. NCUA is entirely funded by the federal credit unions through operating fees and all federally insured credit unions through the overhead transfer rate from credit unions’ 1% deposit into the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Gwen Baker commented, “It is up to NCUA employees as to whether it is right for them to form a union. That decision will not affect NAFCU’s continued vigilance in pushing NCUA to be both transparent and accountable to its stockholders in its budget deliberations.” “Certainly they have a right to pursue their interests.however, the impact on NCUA’s budget on credit unions remains a point of interest to us,” CUNA Vice President of Communications and Media Outreach Pat Keefe echoed. A key issue for examiners that may impact NCUA’s bottomline is quality of life. One examiner complained that examiners, who work from their homes, only in the last couple years won the right to be reimbursed for an extra phone line through the quality of life committee. He also said that, while the agency saves a lot of money by not having office space for them, examiners are not reimbursed for use of the space in their homes for all their files, desks, and other related necessities. Additionally, examiners sometimes travel on their own time. While the quality of life committee is a place for employees to air their complaints, this examiner said the suggestions do not reach the upper levels where someone can make a difference. But the largest problem for this examiner is that different supervisors do not treat examiners in the same manner. For instance, one supervisor will allow billing for travel time while others do not or only for a portion of the trip, even though they are entitled to it, according to the examiner. One supervisor will micromanage an examiner’s day, telling them where to be when, while other supervisors understand the examiner’s abilities and allow them more independence. Also, because of the nature of an examiner’s job, they can not use flextime, a system that permits federal employees to work four 10-hour days rather than five eight-hour days. This examiner is positive that the system could be arranged. A 30% interest level of nonsupervisory staff is required for agency employees to unionize. NTEU’s goal is 50% interest, the examiner said. If there is sufficient interest demonstrated then a vote is requested. Upon the decision to unionize, employees looking to become members are committed to pay a year’s worth of union dues up front, equivalent to between $9 and $15 every two weeks depending on salary. The whole process is expected to take several months. -scooke@cutimes.com