Bargaining obligation disputes

Sometimes an agency states that a proposal is non-negotiable even when it is legal. This is called a "bargaining obligation dispute," which occurs when the agency states that (1) there is "no obligation to bargain" because the proposed contract language is already covered by or included in an existing collective bargaining agreement; or (2) the union has waived its right to bargain; or (3) an agency-initiated change is too minor to require bargaining. An agency is asked to raise this kind of claim at the post-filing conference, but may wait to raise this assertion until filing its statement of position.

A bargaining obligation dispute can be processed in a couple of ways. A union may have filed a grievance or unfair labor practice charge against the agency for refusing to bargain. If it has done that, the Authority will dismiss the petition for review because the general question about the obligation to bargain will be decided in another way. As an alternative to filing a grievance or ULP, the union can ask the Authority to resolve the bargaining obligation dispute as a part of the negotiability appeal. If the Authority agrees that there is an obligation to bargain, it will not order unfair labor practice type of remedies in a negotiability appeal. The Authority will inform the parties of its decision at the same time that it determines whether the proposal is negotiable or legal.