The POPA Executive Committee (EC) had a difficult vote on January 17, 2019 regarding major changes. The EC voted to pass a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that permits POPA to bargain over the effects of instituting CPC routing, Examination Time Analysis (ETA) and a new performance appraisal plan (PAP) as the effects become apparent over a transition period spanning three years.
Gaining the right to bargain for three years and convincing management to make changes which they would not entertain if we demanded to bargain immediately is a notable achievement. Traditionally, POPA gets one shot to bargain before it knows all of the impacts of a change. By accepting the MOU, management now has agreed to discuss its changes and bargain at POPA’s election for three years as the effects of the changes are known and evidence of impacts is gathered.
POPA believes that if the Agency implements these changes, they should implement them separately over an extended period and the results studied to determine if the impact of each change is positive. Adverse impacts could be more easily identified and resolved through a slower more reasoned approach.
Unfortunately, under Federal labor law, virtually every aspect of the changes that management sought to make are management prerogatives. The union cannot negotiate over whether management should make these changes; it is limited to only negotiating over how these changes will be implemented and, within limits, ways to mitigate the adverse impact of the changes on the Examining Corps.
Management was willing to informally discuss with POPA possible modifications to what they intended to implement rather than insisting that we go directly into formal negotiations over the impact and implementation of their changes. We accepted their offer of informal discussions so that we could attempt to change their minds or get them to revise the harmful aspects of their changes.
Many weeks of informal discussions yielded significant changes to management’s package of changes. It is now substantially more advantageous to examiners than where management started out. There were so many moving parts to management’s complicated changes, that had we bargained immediately, we would not have had all of the information we needed to determine what to propose and how to defend our proposals before the Federal Service Impasses Panel. Rather than insisting that we bargain over the impacts in advance (and in the dark) or forever waive the right to bargain, management agreed to allow us to wait without waiving the right to bargain.
POPA is determined to continue to discuss these changes with the Agency and to suggest steps so that harm to the Examining Corps and the Patent System may be avoided. We will need your continued feedback in order to identify and solve issues as they arise. As soon as the signed agreement is available, it will be posted at www.popa.org. There is a lot of information involved in these changes and we will continue to post more information for you on our website over the coming weeks.
We appreciate your feedback and support.