NCUA Examiners Get The OK For Union Elections

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Federal labor authorities last week rejected an NCUA bid to prevent examiners from joining a proposed union, setting the stage for agency employees to hold a union election.

"This is the last step (of the appeals process). Now we move to the election process," NCUA executive director Len Skiles said of the ruling by the three-member Federal Labor Relations Authority.

In its ruling, the panel upheld a decision by the FLRA's regional director asserting that 780 of NCUA's 935 employees, including about 485 examiners, are eligible to form a collective bargaining unit. NCUA had appealed the ruling by the regional director, claiming examiners should be excluded from the collective bargaining unit because they amount to supervisory, or management, personnel.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which is organizing NCUA employees, said representatives of the NTEU will next meet with officials from NCUA and the FLRA to determine the parameters of a union vote, including a date. She said she hopes an election could be held within 45 to 60 days.

"This is very good news for employees who will finally be able to have the opportunity for their voices to be heard and to decide on whether or not they want the National Treasury Employees Union to represent them," said Kelley, whose union represents examiners at the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and 26 other federal agencies.

In its appeal, NCUA had claimed the functions of its examiners go beyond "simply implementing and effectuating policy." "Their functions, undertaken with little supervisory oversight, collectively set the Agency's supervisory agenda and drive budget and resource allocations at the Agency's highest levels," NCUA argued. "It is in that regard that Examiners influence, decide and bring about the agency's supervisory plans and courses of action, thus satisfying the FLRA's test for determining who is a 'management official.'"

NCUA argued that examiners' authority in assessing CAMEL ratings and the supervisory levels that go with those ratings, amount to a supervisory role.

But the Treasury union argued that examiners implement, and do not establish, policy at NCUA. In addition, inclusion of examiners in a collective bargaining unit is consistent with legal precedent set by the FLRA, which sets labor standards for federal employees, the union claimed.

What The FLRA Ruled

In its ruling, the FLRA's region said NCUA examiners "do not establish any policy with respect to CAMEL ratings. Instead, they carry out the (NCUA's) policies concerning CAMEL ratings."

The decision to reject NCUA's appeal, noted Skiles, was by a two-to-one vote, with the chairman of the panel, Dale Cabaniss, suggesting that the ruling be sent back to the region for review, lending some support to NCUA's position.

The effort to form a union at NCUA began in December 2002, with more than 40% of eligible employees eventually signing a petition asking for a union election.

The main motivating factor for forming a union is still not clear. Examiners and other employees at NCUA earn similar, or in many cases, higher wages, than those at other financial regulatory agencies.

Benefits, like health insurance, are also similar, if not identical. One employee involved in the process said they are seeking more input in decision making at the federal credit union regulator and a clearly delineated process with which to air any grievances.

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