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chuck7227

Union Reps on construction site

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A little advice:

Has anyone ever encountered a VA Employee contacting an outside union, like the Pipefitters Union and asking them to visit a construction site of a Construction Contract you are currently administering.  Is there any regulation from preventing a VA Employee, with no stake in the project, from contacting Union Reps outside of the VA?  Is there any case law stating the legality of such an action?  On the surface, to me, this seems highly irregular but I want to find out if anyone else has dealt with such an issue.  Any insight into this would be greatly appreciated, if you have or need any other questions answered to get a full and detailed picture please let me know.  I will do my best to answer them.

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1 hour ago, chuck7227 said:

Is there any regulation from preventing a VA Employee, with no stake in the project, from contacting Union Reps outside of the VA?

There is nothing in the FAR that prevents "contacting." I don't know why the VA employee would ask the union rep to "visit." That seems unusual, but to my knowledge merely asking does not, in and of itself, violate any rules. It does suggest that there is more to the story than you know or are telling us.

See FAR 22.101-1 about general policies with respect to labor relations. See FAR 22.101-1(b)(1): "Agencies shall remain impartial concerning any dispute between labor and contractor management and not undertake conciliation, mediation, or arbitration of a labor dispute."

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23 minutes ago, ji20874 said:

Did you (as the contract administrator) or the contractor allow the visitor access to the work site?

No, I did not, I found out about the visit after the fact.

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I've seen union reps be asked to be onsite for specific events like OSHA inspections and labor interviews. I can't comment specifically why they would be asked and cannot cite anything that says it is improper.

Is the fact the VA is asking for union reps to be onsite concerning to you? if yes why? or are you just inquiring for a general discussion?

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46 minutes ago, Deaner said:

Is the fact the VA is asking for union reps to be onsite concerning to you? if yes why? or are you just inquiring for a general discussion?

Let me preface my response by saying the mention of Union's can sometimes scare people, thereby, creating knee jerk reactions to fairly innocuous situations. The Union Rep on site is only  a small piece of the issue, because of potential future problems that may exist as a result.  However, I can deal with those problems if they occur, they are merely potential future problems and only hypothetical right now.  My first, and immediate, concern is the individual from facility not staying in his lane, for lack of a better cliché.  My initial post may be lacking information, as I am still trying to determine what actually happened.  So right now, I am simply trying to ascertain if the person in question did something inappropriate, illegal, or in violation of the FAR that requires me, as the person administering this contract, to respond.  Aside from calming down the COR and the Contractor, and outside of any action dictated by Facility Policy, which I have not researched yet; what other actions should I contemplate?

Any guidance or advice would be wonderful. 

 

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3 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

I don't know why the VA employee would ask the union rep to "visit." That seems unusual,

It seems unusual to me as well.  I have placed a few inquiries trying to gain more insight.  I have this feeling I am not getting the whole story, as is usually the case.

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Both the agency and the contractor can take steps to limit public access to the work site -- not for union-avoidance reasons, but for valid safety and security reasons.  

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If the contractor's workforce is unionized, then Union rep's normally have some type of access to the employees per the union/employer agreements. 

However,the OP didn't say whether or not the contractor is unionized.  

We don't know why the rep was called.

 I can only assume from the information provided that this is a VA project and somebody from the VA outside the contract admin chain called the union and a rep showed up. We don't know what communication occurred or who it was between. 

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Did the VA employee who called the Union do it in his or her official capacity as a VA employee?  If not, and if the call was made during duty hours, with official equipment, and/or invoking the employee's status as a VA employee, then some misconduct may have occurred.  But how does one prove these things?  Probably, the union representative did nothing wrong, if neither the agency nor the contractor have any rules prohibiting the public from the work site.  

A contract administrator is not an investigator.  An agency employee suspecting wrongdoing by another agency employee may make a report in established channels.  To me, this is not a contract administration matter.

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Chuck7227:

Since this involves an employee what does HR or the employe's supervisor have to say? What does your supervisor say? Heck, what does the employee have to say?

What does the VA union rep say?

Was your contractor's performance affected by the "visit"?

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Jamaal, it wasn't a VA union rep. From what I could glean from the scenario presented, it was a representative from the Pipefitters Union,  visiting a construction job site to meet with a contractor and/or its employees.

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Joel:

14 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

Jamaal, it wasn't a VA union rep. From what I could glean from the scenario presented, it was a representative from the Pipefitters Union,  visiting a construction job site to meet with a contractor and/or its employees.

Understood. If the employee is in a covered position, I wonder what their VA union rep has to say. 

When I supervised covered employees I had a good working relation with the union reps...they knew and helped a lot. Surely they could answer original poster's first question.

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5 hours ago, Jamaal Valentine said:

Joel:

Understood. If the employee is in a covered position, I wonder what their VA union rep has to say 

When I supervised covered employees I had a good working relation with the union reps...they knew and helped a lot. Surely they could answer original poster's first question.

Sorry, Jamaal. I'm just not understanding your question. What would the nexus be between a government employees' union representative and a Pipefitters local representative, who represents non-government unionized construction workers?

hey, at any rate, the info is too sketchy to really answer the original question.  But if an individual employee of an installation who had no official involvement in a contract or authority over an installation calls in a union rep for some reason, i don't think that the government has liability for interference with the construction contractor. If they are unionized, the union has certain representation rights. Union reps sometimes are called in over alleged misclassification of work or pay issues. 

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Joel, as I mentioned, the VA union rep should be able to help answer the first OP's initial question. There are a lot of rules, procedures, and protocols to follow in union shops.

If the VA employee is in a collective bargaining agreement, the OP can see if anything in that agreement or VA regulation governs the action - union rep and HR are good starting places.

The questions, from a contracting office perspective, have been answered as best they could early in this thread. My line of questions was general troubleshooting for the OP to consider.

The OP is concerned with fulfilling their contract administrator duties...based on the info previously provided, I have nothing further to add.

Any tips for construction contracts? You mentioned that the government would not be liable for interference, but where should I look to find what the nature and extent of the duty imposed on a contracting officer to investigate and/or prevent interference is?

 

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Jamaal, of course one should read and study the FAR Subpart 22.4 and any Supplements thereto. 

However, I also highly recommend a careful reading of the Army Corps of Engineers' publication Engineer Regulation ER 1180-1-8, Labor Relations. It specifically discusses visits by labor representatives (yes they can visit the work site but no they can't disrupt construction and no they can't engage in labor organization activities, collective bargaining activities, or other matters not directly associated with the government contract on a government installation (unless the Current Administration has changed the rules since my hard copy version of the ER) . The ER discusses a wide variety of laws, regs, contract provisions; compliance procedures, activities and situations; labor disputes, work stoppages and complaints of labor representatives; enforcement procedures and reporting, area practice surveys; and other topics. 

Bottom line is that, for construction,  there is a much more active role required of the government contract administration team than for service contracting from my reading and experience. 

By the way, complaints by union reps or others, such as Trust Funds and apprentice programs that the contractor is not complying with fringe benefit payment requirements or other contract labor provision requirements are NOT to be regarded as "labor disputes" and the KO is responsible to to enforce the contract minimum wage requirements. For the Corps, we have District and HQ contractor industrial relations specialists can conduct full-scale investigations under certain authorities and do conduct lower level investigations in coordination with the ACO/KO and DOL. 

ER is specific to the USACE but other organizations may have similar regulations. 

http://www.publications.usace.army.mil/Portals/76/Publications/EngineerRegulations/ER_1180-1-8.pdf

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Back in the "dark ages" of the early 80's, we had a lot of senior construction quality assurance representatives. Some were pretty sympathetic to the plights of workers that were unpaid or underpaid.  One of our top field office guys (a WWII marine combat vet) actually brought the local county sheriff to a subcontractor's office and escorted the president to the bank to make the company make restitution and then distribute to the affected workers...  That, of course, was way beyond the bounds..but it was rural Alabama and sometimes such tactics were  the most effective tool for "attitude adjustment" available...

The Statute of Limitations has long passed, plus George died a couple years later.  So I guess there is nothing that could be done to punish or discipline him. I sometimes wish we had more folks like him today. 

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