WASHINGTON-Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) Regional Director Gerald M. Cole determined that most of the employees NCUA had objected to as part of a potential union would be eligible to vote on the creation of a union. According to the National Treasury Employees Union, which is working to organize the NCUA employees, the FLRA approved of 490 out of approximately 500 employees-mostly field examiners-who NCUA had argued were ineligible to become part of the bargaining unit. FLRA’s decision explained, “I conclude that employees in the positions of Regional Management Assistant for Operations, Employment Development Specialist, Risk/Loss Officer and Senior Financial Analyst are excluded from the proposed bargaining unit, but that the positions of Credit Union Examiner, Problem Case Officer, Regional Training Specialist, Attorney/FOIA Officer, Realty Specialist and Risk Management Analyst are appropriately included in the bargaining unit.” The decisions in the ruling were based on whether the positions were considered management, whether they required the exercise of independent judgment and discretion, and/or if they engaged in federal personnel work other than a “purely clerical capacity,” as defined in the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. NCUA has until Feb. 27 to appeal the decision to the FLRA, after which the FLRA has 60 days to act or let the decision stand. The agency has indicated that it is going to take full advantage of its right to appeal. NCUA Executive Director Len Skiles released a statement following the decision that read, “NCUA is presently evaluating all the options available to the Agency regarding this decision, including the filing of an appeal to the full Authority by the deadline of February 27, 2004. However, NCUA believes that the issue of whether the examiners are management officials, as defined in the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and therefore should be excluded from the bargaining unit is of such great importance that an appeal to the full Authority is certainly warranted.” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said she sees the ruling as a positive step forward in the organizing process. “In the wake of this very positive decision,” she said, “we look forward to an election and to bringing the benefits of NTEU representation to NCUA employees.” NTEU is hoping this decision could put the vote on track for this spring or early summer. Still, NCUA is confident in its convictions regarding the employees in question. Skiles commented further, “We recognize in many ways this is a case of first impression. For example, we know that the decision making authority and flexibility afforded NCUA examiners is unusually great. Consequently, we continue to believe that their operational and administrative responsibilities, including their ability to commit the NCUA to various courses of action, fall within the statutory definition of “management official.” The authority provided examiners in the risk focused examination underscores our view that they significantly impact NCUA operations at every level.” The executive director also made a point to compliment the examiners on their knowledge and hard work. Last year, NCUA brought the eligibility issue up to the FLRA and hearings were held in June and July. The agency questioned the legitimacy of about 500 of the total 800 employees as part of the potential bargaining unit that NTEU had considered eligible. Prior to that, NTEU had already gathered signatures well over the 30% required to hold a vote on the union, according to the organizers. The budgetary impact is already being felt at NCUA. An additional $450,000 was requested from the office of General Counsel for contracting expenses dealing with labor relations, according to the FY 2004/2005 budget approved by the NCUA Board in November. Skiles disclosed during the agency’s budget hearing in October of last year that other expenses would include hiring new full-time equivalents, providing labor relations management training for every supervisor, travel, and lost productivity. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Spokesperson Kevin Mukri said the agency did not have any data yet this year on the impact the union organized there in 2002 had on the budget, but should have that information next year. NTEU organized a union at OCC in November 2002. However, Mukri did say that OCC added two new positions for labor relations experts and all of the managers have gone through labor relations training, which will be constantly ongoing process. NTEU currently represents employees of the FDIC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. It bills itself as the largest independent federal union, including 150,000 employees in 29 agencies and departments. -

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