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TSA OKs Collective Bargaining for Airport Security Staffs

February 7, 2011 By: George Dooley

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agreed to allow the TSA’s Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to vote on whether they wish to be represented by a union. The TSA said the determination is for the purposes of engaging in limited, clearly defined collective bargaining at the national level only on non-security employment issues. If a union is chosen, each security officer will retain the right to choose whether or not to join the union.

"The safety of the traveling public is our top priority and we will not negotiate on security," said John Pistole, TSA administrator. "But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security. If security officers vote to move forward with collective bargaining, this framework will ensure that TSA retains the capability and flexibility necessary to respond to evolving threats, and continue improving employee engagement, performance and professional development."

This framework is unique to TSA in that it allows for bargaining at the national level only – while prohibiting local-level bargaining at individual airports – on certain employment issues such as shift bids, transfers and awards. Pistole’s decision prohibits bargaining on any topics that might affect security, such as:

• Security policies, procedures or the deployment of security personnel or equipment
• Pay, pensions and any form of compensation
• Proficiency testing
• Job qualifications
• Discipline standards

The determination strictly prohibits officers from striking or engaging in work slowdowns of any kind, the TSA said. Last November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a decision that called for an election among TSOs to decide whether a majority of officers wished to have exclusive union representation for purposes other than collective bargaining. Pistole’s determination allows this election to move forward, consistent with TSA's security mission and conducted under the framework of the agreement.

Under the legislation that created TSA, Congress expressly granted the TSA administrator sole authority to establish the terms and conditions of employment for security officers at airports.

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By George Dooley | February 7, 2011
TSA moves to reassure public on new policy.