Q: Are there collective bargaining obligations regarding implementation of the Agency Model Safety Principles issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and updated on September 13, 2021?
A: There may be collective bargaining obligations over the impact and implementation of the Agency Model Safety Principles and CDC guidelines. Implementation of the principles and guidelines is essential to protect the health and safety of all federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and individuals interacting with the federal workforce in federal buildings, in federally controlled worksites, and on federal lands. They constitute Government-wide policy that is in effect for employees subject to the requirements of Executive Order 13991 and President Biden’s Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Since agencies need to act quickly due to the COVID-19 emergency and to protect the health and safety of employees, contractor employees, and visitors, agencies are strongly encouraged to begin communicating with the appropriate union representatives as soon as possible and otherwise satisfy any applicable collective bargaining obligations under the law at the earliest opportunity, including on a post-implementation basis where appropriate.
Q: What are agencies’ labor relations obligations regarding implementation of EO 13991? Do we need to share our draft plans with the unions representing bargaining unit employees?
A: Communication with employee representatives is a key element of keeping our federal workforce safe and informed. Section 2(c) of the EO requires agencies to promptly consult, as appropriate, with employee unions. Agencies should promptly notify their unions of the actions they intend to take to require compliance with CDC guidelines to provide a meaningful opportunity for the unions to consult as provided in Section 2(c) of EO 13991. As part of this effort, agencies are encouraged to provide their draft plans to unions in order to provide a meaningful opportunity for the unions to consult.
Agencies may also have collective bargaining obligations under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 71. The agency should begin communicating with the appropriate union representatives as soon as possible and otherwise satisfy any applicable collective bargaining obligations under the law at the earliest opportunity, including on a post-implementation basis if appropriate. If an agency determines that these matters are already covered by an existing collective bargaining agreement and collective bargaining is not required, agencies are reminded to satisfy their consultation obligations, as appropriate, under Section 2(c) of EO 13991.
Agencies should consult with offices of human resources and agency legal counsel to determine appropriate labor relations obligations.
Q: Do agencies have the authority to authorize official time for union consultation and/or negotiations, or both, related to implementation of EO 13991, even if not provided for in current collective bargaining agreements?
A: Yes, to facilitate meaningful union consultation and negotiation, agencies generally have the discretion to authorize official time over and above any official time authorized in current collective bargaining agreements. This may depend, in some measure, on the precise terms of, and possible limitations in, an applicable collective-bargaining agreement. Agencies should consult with offices of human resources and agency legal counsel to confirm their ability to do so.
Q: How does the plan required by EO 13991 impact safety plans that are currently codified in existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and have more stringent safety standards than provided in CDC guidance?
A: To the extent that collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) have codified safety plans with more stringent safety standards than provided in CDC guidance, agencies are obligated to honor the CBAs. Agencies should acknowledge these CBA safety plans when providing updates on implementation of EO 13991 to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator.