Broadcasting Board of Governors officials rebuked on illegal firings of employees, likely to waste millions on further appeals

AFGE Local 1812The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) rejected all of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) exceptions to Arbitrator Suzanne R. Butler’s decision in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) RIF (reduction-in-force) case (http://www.flra.gov/decisions/v66/66-182.html) involving illegal firings of OCB broadcasters. It is likely, however, that the Agency’s lawyers will continue to appeal.

The Agency lost on all of the 30 issues for which BBG lawyers filed exceptions.

Arbitrator Butler’s decision was a very strong one and the FLRA rebuke was total and practically eliminates any chance of a successful appeal.

BBG Watch has learned, however, there are strong indications that the Agency’s General Counsel’s office is determined to appeal the ruling to the District Court despite the fact there is almost no chance of success. “Why not? – it’s not their money they are wasting,” one inside source told BBG Watch.

“These employees who were wrongfully terminated and retaliated against have been out of work for almost three years. Filing another appeal only delays the inevitable and drives up the cost to the taxpayers. This is a senseless waste of resources by the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office. It keeps them busy and it isn’t their money they are wasting.”

The AFGE Local 1812 union representing BBG employees sent a letter to the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard Lobo, who is responsible for BBG’s administration and the General Counsel’s office, informing him that the union would win this case and giving him the opportunity to settle it. Lobo chose to listen to Agency officials who, as he was informed by the union, were giving him bad advice. The costs for this one case will be in the millions and are increasing daily.

After their plea was dismissed by IBB Director Lobo, AFGE Local 1812 union leaders appealed to members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to end the case now and to hold officials responsible for this debacle accountable. “Perhaps that is why they just want to proceed with an appeal because they can’t admit that they are responsible for such a disaster and are just buying for time,” one union leader said.

A BBG official who is a lawyer told BBG Watch on background that the FLRA decision on OCB points out how poor the legal standing is of OCB and BBG in this case. BBG has not had a General Counsel for seven years and the GC office is led by Deputy General Counsel is Paul Kollmer-Dorsey. He is on record of advocating limiting open debate on various issues and continuing litigation with the union.

“No doubt they will continue this lawsuit for more years with the end result being negative, with cost escalating into millions of dollars in interest and unpaid court orders,” a BBG insider told BBG Watch.

One of those calling for a quick settlement of this case to save taxpayers’ money is Republican BBG member Victor Ashe. In open BBG meetings, he has clashed with Kollmer-Dorsey over this and other management and accountability issues. One such issue is the up-to-50 million dollar, five-year audience research contract with Gallup, which Ashe opposed as being wasteful at the time of tight budgets. The Deputy General Counsel opposed Ashe’s call for openly discussing auditing the contract after the U.S. Department of Justice joined a whistleblower lawsuit against Gallup alleging that the polling giant was overbilling other federal agencies.

BBG Watch thinks it is highly ironic that BBG officials appointed by President Obama’s Democratic administration are engaged in a war with their employees and are allowed to keep their jobs despite being rated in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) surveys as being some of the worst managers in the federal government. The BBG is also at the bottom of federal agencies in employee morale. Therefore, it is highly ironic that most Democratic members of the bipartisan BBG board failed to side with a Republican who believes that fair treatment of employees is a good management practice. Ashe is a former, longest serving mayor of Knoxville, TN and former U.S. Ambassador to Poland.

 

The following press release on the latest ruling in the OCB RIF case was posted on the AFGE Local 1812 website:

 

NEWS RELEASE

TIME TO BRING ILLEGALLY FIRED EMPLOYEES BACK TO WORK

In 66 FLRA No. 182 (http://www.flra.gov/decisions/v66/66-182.html), the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) “dismissed in part and denied in part” all the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ exceptions to Arbitrator Suzanne R. Butler’s arbitration decision regarding the 2009 reduction-in-force (RIF) of employees at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) in Miami.  Arbitrator Butler ruled that the BBG violated the parties’ Negotiated Labor-Management Agreement (NLMA) by not providing the Union with the opportunity to bargain the RIF and failed to abide by other provisions of the NLMA.  She ordered the BBG to rescind the RIF.

“It is time to bring these employees back to work,” said AFGE Local 1812 President Tim Shamble.  “They have been illegally deprived of work and a paycheck since late 2009.  The money owed to them is increasing daily and the really sad part is that it won’t be the Agency officials responsible for this fiasco who will have to foot the bill but the American taxpayers.  It is time to bring these people back to work which is all they wanted to do to begin with.”

Arbitrator Butler’s decision was a resounding victory for the Union.  The Agency filed 30 different bases for exceptions to Arbitrator Butler’s decision with the FLRA.  Every one of them was rejected.

For more information contact AFGE Local 1812 at afge1812@hotmail.com or 202-382-7616.

Posted: Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

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