The U.S. Court of Appeals here ruled yesterday that performance standards for federal employes and identification of the critical elements of their jobs, both key factors in how the government evaluates its workers, are not subject to mandatory collective bargaining between employe unions and management.
In companion opinions, both written by Chief Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III, the court held that while the 1978 Federal Labor-Management Relations Act requires federal agencies to bargain over conditions of employment, the law leaves it to the managers to hire and supervise employes and make their work assignments.
The rulings affirmed decisions by the Federal Labor Relations Authority that had been challenged by the National Treasury Employes Union and the American Federation of Government Employes.
"Without a doubt, the right to determine what work will be done and by whom and when it is to be done, is at the very core of successful management of the employer's business, whether a private-sector enterprise or the public operations of a federal agency," Robinson wrote in the NTEU opinion.
That "invaluable right" is essential to the manager's ability to achieve maximum productivity and to the agency's ability to "function in an effective manner," Robinson said..
The FLRA's decision to reserve that right to management, and insulate it from the bargaining table, complies with the intent of Congress that federal law be interpreted "in a manner consistent with the exigencies of efficient government," Robinson wrote.
Robinson noted that the FLRA has left room for employes to participate in formulating performance standards, and challenge them once they are in place. But it has ruled out an employe veto of the standards.
The AFGE, in its case, had argued that Congress had intended that collective bargaining was in the public interest and should be encouraged in the federal sector. The union contended that "conditions of employment" as stated in the 1978 act included performance standards and critical job elements that are used to evaluate employes' work.
Robinson relied on the reasoning he stated in the NTEU case and said that those items are "non-negotiable."
As part of a congressional effort at civil service reform, agencies were directed to draw up performance appraisal systems which would include objective criteria to be used as a basis for rewarding or promoting employes, or for reducing their grade or removing them, Robinson wrote.
Performance standards, and identification of the "critical elements" of a job are crucial features of the performance appraisal system, Robinson said.