FAQs for ETA, Routing, PAP MOU


  1. Why did POPA agree to a new PAP, routing by CPC and changes to examination time?

POPA did not agree to a new PAP, routing by CPC and changes to examination time.  It is within management rights to implement any or all of these.  What POPA has the right to do is bargain over the impact and implementation of what management has a right to do.  All of these changes which management wants to implement have unforeseen consequences right now.  Thisagreement allows POPA to continue talking to management as the changes are implemented.  It also preserves our bargaining rights to go into formal bargaining if and when we have evidence that things aren’t going well for the Examining Corps.

  1. Who does this affect?

Utility patent examiners are covered by this agreement.

  1. What about Design examiners?

Design examiners are not affected by CPC routing or examination time analysis.  Management plans to modify the utility PAP for Design examiners.

  1. What would have happened if POPA had voted this memorandum of understanding (MOU) down?

Management would have continued their plans to implement the changes and would have given POPA notice of its right to request formal bargaining over the impact and implementation of the changes.  The performance plan from management would likely have been different from the last version discussed with us.  It likely would have reverted at least partially to the less favorable version they shared with us in October.

  1. What happens now?

POPA will continue to meet with management to helpdevelop the IT which will be necessary for these changes.  We will also discuss some issues that need to be resolved prior to implementation as well as any issues that come up during implementation preparations.  It will be important that we hear from employees about issues concerning implementation, especially with respect to routing.  There will be different concerns in different areas of the Office.

  1. When is this going to be implemented?

The PAP, CPC routing and examination time changes will be implemented all at once.  The earliest time would be October 1, 2019, but before the changes can be implemented the IT has to be ready for all of the changes.

  1. What if I start having problems once this is implemented?

Employees need to inform us once they detect a problem.  The earlier we find out, the earlier we can talk to management to try to rectify problems.

  1. Why did management not go into formal bargaining immediately last October?

Last October, management approached POPA and let us know that they had formal proposals ready covering a new PAP, CPC routing and examination time.  Management was concerned that some of the changes they wanted to make had never been discussed with POPA.  Management was willing to informally discuss with POPA possible changes in what they intended to implement rather than insisting we go directly into formal negotiations over the impact and implementation of these changes.  We accepted their offer of informal discussions so that we could immediately attempt to change their minds or get them to revise the harmful aspects of the proposals.

  1. What is wrong with going into formal bargaining at this point?

Wrong or right is not the issue. In the federal sector, by law, we cannot negotiate over the substance of CPC routing, examination time or the PAP. Formal bargaining would be limited to the impact and implementation of the changes. The process involves negotiating with management for a limited amount of time on a set schedule, going to mediation, and then to the Federal Service Impasses Panel which is the third party who makes the final decision.  This Panel requires evidence supporting why something is a concern in order to persuade them to grant an arrangement to ameliorate harm to employees.  By negotiating at a later point in time, we will have an opportunity to discuss issues informally before having to resort to the formal process for relief and will be more likely to have persuasive evidence to support our proposals.


  1. What do examiners get out of this?

They get the improvements that are in the comparison chart as well as a more effective way to provide input into the implementation process.  In the long run, they may get better arrangements to ameliorate harm caused by the changes.

  1. Why can’t POPA just say “no”, we don’t want these changes?

Under Federal labor law, management has certain rights.  CPC routing, examination time and PAP fall under “management rights” that are not substantively negotiable.  POPA’s right as a federal employee union is to bargain over the impact and implementation of the changes.  We can’t stop management by telling them “no”.  They would just continue their plans to implement if we said “no” but with no input from the union or employees.


  1. Why didn’t POPA vote this down and then go into formal bargaining with the last version of the management changes we were given?

Managementwould not have startedbargaining with the last version we discussed.   The last version had many modifications that were made at POPA’s request.  Management agreed to thesemodifications as a compromise.  If they had to bargain formally anyway, they no longer would have an incentive to compromise. 

  1. Why can’t we just agree to the change in examination time?

Management has determined that a new PAP and CPC routing have to be a part of any change in examination time.  We asked to break the package up since it is an awful lot of change to go through at one time.  Management said no.