WASHINGTON -In a case brought by the American Federation of Government Employees, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has upheld the right of federal unions to negotiate certain issues surrounding an agency´s implementation of a Reduction in Force.
The specific case involved the Air Force´s 2006 decision to conduct a Reduction in Force (RIF) at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. AFGE Local 1547, which represents employees at the base, made two proposals related to how the RIF would affect employees hired under Veterans Recruitment Appointments (VRAs). The Air Force challenged the union´s right to negotiate over the proposals, prompting AFGE to appeal to the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The FLRA ruled in AFGE´s favor in 2011, but the Air Force appealed to the Court of Appeals. On June 1, the court upheld the FLRA decision.
The Air Force´s planned RIF only eliminated competitive service positions, which meant that VRA appointees who had not been converted to the competitive service would not have been affected. AFGE was concerned that excluding these VRA appointees would have a negative impact on employees already in the competitive service, since in many cases the appointees had less service time than competitive service employees in comparable positions.
So, AFGE made two proposals to ensure that competitive service employees were not adversely affected. First, if the Air Force determined a competitive service employee would be displaced by the RIF, and a VRA appointee with less seniority occupied a similar position, the Air Force would convert that VRA employee to a term appointment that would expire before the RIF took effect. Secondly, the Air Force would not make any new VRA appointments into positions affected by the RIF until the RIF was completed.
"By attempting to exclude employees appointed under the VRA authority, the Air Force was trying to circumvent RIF rules and lay off permanent employees with more seniority. We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has upheld the right of the union to negotiate over the terms of a RIF that otherwise would have negatively affected career employees," AFGE National President John Gage said.
The government has 45 days to file a petition for rehearing, but AFGE does not anticipate that the agency will challenge the court´s decision, Gage said.