DoDEA Response to FEA SR Open Letter

DoDEA Director Tom Brady sent the response below to FEA-Stateside Region's Open Letter on March 30, 2018.

The FEA Director for DDESS replied to Mr. Brady's message on April 4, clarifying a number of points. You can read that reply from the FEA Director for DDESS here.

Dear Jane,

I received your "open letter" regarding the recent status and current impasse on our efforts to bargain a successor contract to the current DoDEA/FEA-SR Master Labor Agreement (MLA) signed in December 2005, and in effect through July 2009. Although we disagree on the path to resolve the current impasse, it is clear that we share a sense of disappointment as well as mounting frustration about the process.

Vital to our vision is the care and sustainment of a quality teaching force to deliver on our mission. I value the partnership we have maintained with the teachers' union throughout our long and proud history of service to military connected families. That partnership has allowed us to support teachers in so many venues to better enable, position, and compensate them for their daily work in our classrooms across the Americas. An up-to-date, viable, and realistic negotiated agreement is critical to our operation.

No disrespect was ever intended toward the Association or the employees you represent as a result of DoDEA's action to issue its last-best-and-final-offer (LBFO). The decision to issue the LBFO to the Association was not taken lightly or haphazardly. It was done after careful consideration of the options and only when it was inevitable that a new contract would not result from the current negotiations process.

In our perspective, issuing a LBFO was an appropriate and legal process to move negotiations to conclusion when we are at impasse. This is not unprecedented. DoDEA issued a similar LBFO notice during these same negotiations last June (2017), when the Association refused to participate or provide availability to attend mediation prior to the start of School Year 2017-2018. After the issuance of the LBFO with intent to implement on June 26, 2017, if the Association did not identify dates of availability within the mediator's schedule, we were able to identify dates to meet and talk. That resulted in the 8-month mediation process that just concluded, with the Association and DoDEA being at impasse on the same articles we were at impasse on this time last year.

DoDEA has sought several avenues to resolve our current bargaining impasse, including our effort to have the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) take jurisdiction of the negotiations and resolve the disputed articles. FSIP declined jurisdiction on April 3, 2017, because the Association continued to press for several proposals that DoDEA has claimed for years were not negotiable. As you know, negotiation and impasse procedures are governed by the Federal Service Labor-Management Labor Relations Statute (the Statute). Under the Statute, only the Association can file a negotiability petition to resolve the parties' dispute but has chosen not to do so.

The timeline of our efforts indicates we have been bargaining the terms of the successor contract since July 2010, when the agreement on the ground rules was signed, spanning 7+ years, with the most recent bargaining efforts being the mediation that began in June 2017. This prolonged bargaining period has resulted in an overwhelming majority of the articles and addendums being tentatively agreed to by the Association and DoDEA. Currently, DoDEA and the Association have already reached tentative agreements on 31 of 35 contract articles and 20 of 22 appendices. The record shows that today, only 4 articles and 2 appendices have not been agreed to from the proposals submitted by DoDEA.

Throughout the process, I have been apprised of the bargaining and mediation process and recently approved the LBFO notice as our best legal option to obtain a successor contract. Our decision was never intended to treat Association-represented employees dismissively. The LBFO was made in good faith, as evidenced by the fact that DoDEA included the tentative agreements made with the Association, those jointly bargained agreements made up almost 89% of the contract articles and 91% of the appendices.

Unfortunately, our current impasse is not a management perception, but one of reality which was recognized by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service when they released the Association and DoDEA from mediation on March 6, 2018.

Contract negotiations can be frustrating for all involved. Both the Association and DoDEA have to exercise their respective legal options to reach a resolution that will enable our teachers to focus on the educational experiences they guide each and every day in our classrooms. While I would have preferred that the Association and DoDEA reach a full, final, and voluntary agreement, I had to make an "adult decision" in the hope that it would move the process along and bring about a long-overdue new contract.

The current state of impasse in our contract negotiations has nothing to do with contractual agreements and disputes in other federal agencies, including the Department of Education. Our bargaining histories within the Department of Defense and DoDEA's related actions stand on their own merits. Just as DoDEA and the Association have resolved many disputes through the Partnership Committee and grievance/arbitration process, it is my continued hope that we will be able to resolve the successor contract bargaining dispute the same way.

Although our views may differ at times, DoDEA and the Association are jointly linked to support the contributions of our employees and deliver on the promise and commitment of our core mission -- delivering a quality education to our military and DoD civilian families each and every day. I am hopeful that we are able to work together to resolve this impasse with the same respect and professionalism that has marked our partnership for so many years.