Officials with the Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville and the nation’s largest union representing federal employees signed a collective bargaining agreement Thursday.
Huntsville Center leadership and American Federation of Government Employees Local 1858 representatives put final signatures on a three-year agreement for union representation for the center’s approximately 400 nonprofessional employees.
Almost 20 years since the last vote for union representation failed at Huntsville Center, nonprofessional employees voted for the union in the summer of 2015, while a majority of professional employees opted not to participate.
While nonprofessional employees may hold positions requiring college degrees, their educational credentials need not be specific to their career field. Professional employees are those holding positions requiring an educational credential or certification specific to their field, such as engineers or scientists.
Seen as a major milestone in how leadership manages and directs employees, the agreement represents a successful negotiation for the settling of disputes between employees and management, said Lt. Col. Burlin Emery, deputy commander at Huntsville Center. It also provides employees with a guide for what is reasonable and fair treatment.
Agreement provisions include guidelines for alternate work schedules, telework, the merit promotion process and the performance appraisal process, said Abner Merriweather, president of AFGE Local 1858. The agreement was also one of the fastest negotiated between AFGE Local 1858 and an agency.
“I think one of the reasons for this was the partnership between management and the union,” Merriweather said. “Also, there was mutual respect and communications between the parties.”
Emery agrees the short time needed for negotiations is a testament to the “spirit of cooperation” between the two groups.
“The speed with which this agreement was negotiated illustrates that Huntsville Center management and Local 1858 are very much in harmony in our shared desire to treat employees with dignity and respect, while still enforcing tough standards of conduct and work completion,” Emery said.
Negotiations for the agreement began in December 2015 and were formally concluded last December. Other bargaining agreements in Local 1858’s purview have taken anywhere from 2-3 years for completion, according to Merriweather.
Emery gave praise and sincere thanks to Merriweather and all the members of his negotiating team. Merriweather credited Emery’s approach to negotiating in a manner conducive to both parties as key to bargaining success.
AFGE Local 1858 represents roughly 11,000 employees across 22 commands and 32 bargaining units associated with Redstone Arsenal.
The bargaining team representing Huntsville Center management included Emery, Daniel Heinzelman, Margaret Simmons and Dorothy Tiller. Sherry Page also contributed to the team prior to leaving Huntsville Center.
The AFGE Local 1858 bargaining unit included Merriweather, Vicki Fuller, Kenyata Johnson, Randy Barbour, Stephanie Tucker and Matt Urbanic. Alternate negotiators included Bonnie Smith and Delores Davis with Donnie Butler serving as a negotiator earlier in talks.