FLRA Says Forest Service Violated the Work Schedules Act for Canceling 4/10s
Internal NFFE News
August 16, 2023
Earlier this year, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the U.S. Forest Service due to the agency’s refusal to bargain over wildland firefighter work schedules. Management had forced Local 1650 employees, who are stationed on the Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland, Los Padres, and Sequoia National Forests, to work 5/8 schedules instead of 4/10s, which was a reversal from the previous 15 years. The agency twice declined to bargain with Local 1650 leaders, prompting the NFFE Headquarters legal team to file a ULP.
However, this week NFFE received notice from the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), that the board’s Regional Director concluded that the Forest Service violated the Work Schedules Act with the unilateral decision to institute 5/8 work schedules without giving NFFE the opportunity to bargain over the policy change. The Work Schedules Act states that federal agency management has broad discretion to establish alternative work schedules for federal employees, but the agency must negotiate work schedules with the employees’ union.
“This is clearly the correct interpretation by the FLRA and a huge step in the right direction for federal wildland firefighters in Local 1650,” said NFFE National Business Representative Steve Gutierrez. “Now it’s time to right this wrong and go to the bargaining table to make sure our brothers and sisters have the flexible work schedules that they deserve. I am proud of the effort that Local 1650 put in to gathering evidence and testimony so that the FLRA had any easy decision to make on this ULP.”
“The lack of a work-life balance for federal wildland firefighters is an obvious issue,” said NFFE National President Randy Erwin. “Management forcing Local 1650 into 5/8 work schedules went against all established practices and only served to crush morale at a time when wildland firefighters are already struggling too much. With this finding by the FLRA, NFFE is hoping to return to the status quo while we bargain with management to implement work schedules that allow our federal wildland firefighters to decompress and recuperate during the winter after months of battling fires and time away from their loved ones.”