LR Corner
Thursday, October 07, 2010

NATCA Achieves Full Remedy For Grievance Involving Failure to Promote Engineer

NATCA recently settled a grievance regarding the failure to timely promote an engineer in April 2010.  NATCA’s Engineers and Architects Agreement has promotion criteria and timelines that the agency must follow. The agency denied the promotion based on a lack of “supervisor recommendation” as required by the contract language. NATCA had previously won an arbitration where there was no good reason not to recommend the employee for promotion, and NATCA made that argument in the grievance in this case. Through negotiations with the agency, NATCA obtained a full remedy, backdating the personnel action and providing back pay to the date the promotion was due under the contract.

NATCA Gets One-Day Suspension Reduced to Letter of Reprimand

NATCA received a favorable decision in a one-day suspension case in the AirCraft Certification Unit. The grievant was an engineer who had never been disciplined prior to the incident, which involved a telephone call with the owner of a sightseeing airplane company. The grievant called to request a refund for a gift certificate and the owner cursed him out and hung up on him. Without thinking about the ramifications, the grievant called back and left a message indicating that the grievant would report the situation to a coworker in the FAA who oversaw the company’s certification. The owner then complained to the FAA. Despite the grievant’s apology, and the absence of any attempt to use his position with the FAA for private gain, the FAA suspended the grievant for one day. NATCA asserted that the entire situation was a misunderstanding and did not warrant formal discipline. The arbitrator agreed and ordered the agency to rescind the suspension and issue a letter of reprimand instead. The case illustrates the importance of all communication with outside entities when working as an FAA employee.

FLRA Grants NATCA’s Exception and Finds the FAA Violated the Contract by Refusing to Bargain over the Discontinuation of a Time Off Program for No Operational Errors

In a unanimous decision the FLRA agreed with NATCA and found that the FAA’s unilateral decision to cease a time off awards program violated the contract. The case arose at ZJX where the parties entered into a local MOU in 2001 that granted nine hours off for employees who did not have an operational error or deviation. A few years later the agency informed the union that it intended to terminate the program. In response, and pursuant to the MOU, NATCA submitted a new proposal that sought to expand the award from nine to 16 hours. The FAA proceeded to unilaterally terminate the program. NATCA, in turn, filed a grievance over the termination and refusal to bargain. 

The case went to arbitration and the arbitrator denied the grievance. In denying the grievance, the arbitrator determined that the program was akin to performance standards and as such non negotiable. Therefore, in his view, the agency had no duty to bargain. In addition, he determined that the procedures and appropriate arrangements proposed by NATCA were too bound up in the program itself and did not prompt a duty to bargain. Finally, the arbitrator ruled that the program was an enhancement to the master agreement and thus ran afoul of the national agreement.

NATCA disagreed with the denial and filed exceptions with the FLRA. On appeal the union argued that the program was not akin to performance standards but was an awards program like incentive pay and thus negotiable. NATCA pointed out as it did before the arbitrator that Article 21 of the contract allows for the creation of such a program and was fully negotiable. Further, the union maintained that the agency could not just unilaterally end the program without the requisite bargaining.

In a unanimous decision the FLRA agreed with NATCA and determined that the program was negotiable as it was like an awards program in that it awarded superior performance. As such, the FAA violated the contract by unilaterally terminating the program and refusing to bargain. They remanded the case back to the arbitrator to fashion an appropriate remedy in light of their ruling.