PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT AND CHARTER
FOR
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)
AND
NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION (NTEU)

In the spirit of Executive Order 12871, which encourages agencies to form labor-management partnership relationships, FDA and NTEU jointly establish the National Labor-Management Partnership Council (the Council). The parties recognize that a strong collaborative relationship based on mutual trust and respect between labor and management as true partners is essential in order for FDA to continue to work efficiently and effectively to better serve its stakeholders’ needs. This partnership relationship is founded upon a commitment to the open sharing of information at the earliest pre-decisional stage creating an environment where knowledge is utilized to better meet the Agency’s mission.

PURPOSE

The Council’s goal is to further the FDA mission of protecting the public health by establishing an agency wide labor-management environment that maximizes the full development and utilization of employees’ skills, knowledge, and capabilities.

OBJECTIVES

In pursuit of this goal, the Council will be actively engaged in achieving the following objectives:

to enhance and/or establish policy and program improvement initiatives through pre-decisional involvement;

to provide a forum from which to build mutual trust, respect and understanding between the parties;

to share and discuss matters of concern and interest to both partners;

to act as equal partners to address issues from an interest-based problem-solving perspective;

to promote cooperative labor-management working relationships across the Agency;

to provide guidance and direction to Center, Regional, and Local level partnership councils;

to establish programs and activities that enhance the quality of worklife of FDA employees;

to facilitate implementation of Health and Human Services (HHS) Departmental Labor-Management Partnership Council initiatives;

to provide an open line of communication and information between the Council and all FDA employees; and

to build an environment where all employees are responsible for developing and maintaining a productive and fulfilling workplace.

SCOPE

The Council is a decision making body for those issues the Council decides to address, consistent with the preamble and objectives set forth in this charter. For those issues that are beyond the Council’s authority to make a decision, the Council may decide to make a recommendation or to seek the authority to make a decision. Included within the scope of the Council would be action to promote and support Regional, Center, and Local Partnership Councils and address FDA wide issues, defined as issues affecting more than one Center. The Council will not deal with the resolution of Center partnership issues unless requested to do so by a Center Partnership Council or directed by Agency or Departmental mandate.

Regarding the permissive matters of bargaining covered by 5 USC 7106(b)(1), the Council will establish a separate and defined process for dealing with negotiations over those substantive matters once the Secretary of HHS or the HHS Departmental Partnership Council releases guidance over the issue.

The Council recognizes that the work of the Council is not a substitute for collective bargaining obligations.

STRUCTURE

Composition: The Council will consist of fourteen (14) members, seven (7) NTEU representatives and seven (7) management representatives. In addition, the FDA Deputy Commissioner, Office of Management and Systems and the NTEU National Vice-President will be considered ex officio members of the Council. There will be no alternate members. All NTEU representatives will be appointed by the NTEU National President and all management representatives will be appointed by the Agency. Both entities will make every effort to appoint appropriately diverse representatives (considering ethnicity, gender, major program, professional management components, grade, etc.). All bargaining unit participants will be allocated appropriate official time to participate in Council activities.

Co-Chairs: NTEU and the Agency will each appoint a Council Co-Chair for a term to be established individually by each entity. The Co-Chairs will alternate in chairing meetings of the Council.

Outside Participants: Outside participants may only attend by the mutual agreement of the co-chairs. Participation of invited subject matter participants will be limited to their area of expertise. Observers may only be invited to attend by consensus of the Council.

Decision Making: All Council members have equal status during Council deliberations. The Council has the authority to recommend and require action. A quorum exists when at least four (4) representatives from labor and four (4) representatives from management are present. When there is no quorum, meetings may still be held to discuss issues, however no decisions may be made.

All decisions shall be made by consensus. A consensus decision is one that each member of a partnership can "live with." Consensus presumes that all participants are satisfied that their concerns have been heard. It is a decision that, while perhaps not the preferred choice of each member, is one that all members can accept, understand and publicly support after the meeting.

A fully developed item may be tabled for one additional meeting, unless the Council mutually agrees to extend the length of time.

If consensus is not reached, each party may utilize its statutory and other rights as specified in "Preservation of Rights", below. This decision making process will be evaluated by the Council after one (1) full year of Council operation.

Meeting Schedule and Logistics: The Council will meet once a month for the first six (6) months and quarterly thereafter (or more often if necessary and by mutual agreement). The Council will normally meet in Rockville, MD, but may also meet at another location, by mutual agreement. If a Council member is unable to physically attend a meeting, they may participate by video conferencing or teleconferencing, by mutual agreement. Members participating by video conferencing or teleconferencing do count as part of the quorm. The date and time for any meetings will be established by mutual agreement. Council meetings may be held in conjunction with other meetings where it is deemed cost-effective.

Workgroups: The Council has the authority to form workgroups which may include individuals from outside of the Council. Council members will serve as liaisons to each workgroup. Any such workgroups will be given their charge and/or responsibilities from the Council in writing. Non-Council member bargaining unit participants of such groups will be allocated appropriate official time to participate in Council activities.

Support: The Council will utilize the services of a facilitator trained in interest-based bargaining techniques at all meetings, unless mutually agreed otherwise. The Council will be supported at meetings and between meetings by the staff and resources of the FDA-NTEU National Partnership Office and OHRMS. Such support shall include creation and dissemination of meeting agendas and minutes, announcements of meetings, travel arrangements, and other matters as determined by the Co-Chairs.

Agenda Development and Dissemination: All potential agenda items will be submitted to FDA/NTEU National Partnership Office representatives. Those representatives will forward the items to the Co-Chairs who will then mutually establish the formal agenda for the next Council meeting. The formal agenda will be distributed to all Council members three (3) working days prior to the next Council meeting. For issues that will require an action decision by the Council, all proposals or other materials related to that issue will be distributed to Council members no later than seven (7) calendar days prior to the meeting at which the decision will need to be made.

Travel Costs for NTEU Memebers: In accordance with the collective bargaining agreement the Agency will pay for travel, lodging and per diem of two (2) of the NTEU Council members from the field. By mutual consensus agreement of the Council, in order to maintain parity, the Agency will pay the travel, lodging and per diem costs of one (1) additional NTEU Council member from the field.

Communication: The Council will communicate its meeting summaries and other partnership information to all FDA employees.

Ground Rules: All Council members and Council guests shall abide by the attached grounds during Council meetings and activities (see attached). Co-chairs shall be responsible for enforcing the groundrules.

REGIONAL, CENTER, AND LOCAL PARTNERSHIP COUNCILS:

All FDA Centers, OC, and ORA are encouraged to form Partnership Councils. Nothing prevents these organizations from establishing Partnership Councils at other levels. All Councils are expected to have similar hierarchical relationships as this Council has to the HHS Partnership Council. All Councils are decision making bodies for those issues the Councils decide to address, consistent with the preamble and objectives set forth in their charters. For those issues that are beyond a Council’s authority to make a decision, the Council may decide to make a recommendation or to seek the authority to make a decision. Those decisions and policies should not be in conflict with the decisions and/or policies set by this Council or by the HHS Departmental Partnership Council unless a specific exemption is granted by this Council.

All Partnership Councils will have an equal number of NTEU and management representatives. Both NTEU and management will appoint their own members to the Councils. Both entities will make every effort to appoint appropriately diverse representatives (considering ethnicity, gender, major program, professional management components, etc.). This Council’s intent is that members of the Council will be from within the organizational unit.

For a pilot period of one (1) year, members of Center and Local Partnership Councils will be FDA employees. (At the end of one (1) year from the signing of this Charter, this Council will evaluate the effectiveness of this membership requirement.)

However, for Partnership Councils that have national jurisdiction (e.g. FDA Regions that are represented by more than one NTEU Chapter), the NTEU National President has the option to appoint NTEU employees to these Councils.

Any Council that does not have an option to appoint an NTEU employee will also not have the option to appoint an FDA labor relations specialist. However, the Council through consensus can invite an NTEU employee and/or an FDA labor relations specialist to attend meetings of the Council.

This Council will provide requisite direction to those Councils, as requested or as appropriate.

EVALUATION

The Council will prepare a progress report on an annual basis. It will determine whether to renew its procedures and/or to make changes in any aspect of the partnership.

PRESERVATION OF RIGHTS

Partnership is not intended to supplant the decision-making authority, or to usurp the responsibility, of agency management, but to involve NTEU in developing agency decisions through the active and systemic participation of all of those performing the Agency’s work. This partnership is based on the belief that NTEU participation in Agency decision-making will promote decisions of such a nature that the need for formal bargaining will be reduced, and where bargaining becomes necessary, will inform and facilitate the negotiations.

Subject to statute and the collective bargaining agreement, FDA reserves the right to determine whether to implement recommendations and decisions arising from the partnership endeavor, and NTEU reserves the right to bargain concerning the substance, impact and implementation of final FDA decisions prior to implementation. The Agency recognizes its statutory, regulatory, and/or contractual obligations to provide notification to NTEU.

MODIFICATIONS, DURATION, AND EFFECTIVE DATE

This Partnership Agreement shall be effective upon the date all parties have signed it. The partners may amend or supplement this Agreement at any time.

Executed in accordance with Executive Order 12871 at Rockville, MD on this __________ day of ________ 2000.

[signatures and titles of all members]