BBG Watch Commentary
On November 19, 2011, Federal Arbitrator, Suzanne Butler, found in favor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors employee union, AFGE Local 1812, in its grievance over the BBG’s 2009 illegal reduction-in-force at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, adversely affecting more than 20 employees.
The Arbitrator’s award orders, among other things, reinstatement of the affected employees to their previous positions without loss of seniority or benefits and full back pay including interest.
AFGE Local 1812 reported on its website that “acting in its usual manner the Agency is postponing its day of reckoning, when it would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to these employees, by filing an appeal to the FLRA. Continued delays could add millions to taxpayers’ costs.”
BBG Governor Victor Ashe raised this issue at the BBG meeting in Prague last week.
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “My question is along the lines that I’ve asked before, basically, to have an update. As you are aware, you’ve inherited, all of us did, the legal action that was brought under your predecessor or may be two predecessors back, with regard to some people that were RIFed [reduction-in-force] and let go by previous action. The labor relations board, I believe, ruled against OCB [Office of Cuba Broadcasting] and that’s now been appealed. Where does that stand? Because as you know, I’ve raised some questions, without taking sides, whether it should be appealed or not. An appeal does represent a roll of the dice in terms of the financial consequences to the Board and to the American Taxpayer if the appeal fails. And the appeal may take two to three years, and the exposure may be in excess of three million dollars if you lose on the appeal because you add three more years of interest, late charges, attorney fees, the whole bit. You’ve indicted in a prior case that the panel that initially hears this you expect to lose in and then you go to the federal court. Have you been to the panel yet? If so, what happened? If not, when is it scheduled? And thirdly, do you have to get the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General’s approval to take it into federal court.”
OFFICE OF CUBA BROADCASTING DIRECTOR CARLOS A. GARCIA-PEREZ: “Governor, if Paul Kollmer-Dorsey is with you, I’d like to defer it to him. I’m not extremely familiar with the process. I know that it’s an ongoing process. We are appealing the process, but if Paul can help me out, I’d appreciate it.”
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “I’ll be very brief. We did disagree with the arbitrator’s decision. We filed exceptions with the arbitrator’s decisions with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. We have not heard back from them.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “When would you anticipate they have to hear your appeal?”
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “It’s a written appeal without a hearing. It’d briefs without a hearing and we don’t know when we will hear from them.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “Once the decision is made, whichever way it might go, does either party, the losing party, have the right to appeal that to another level?”
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “I guess we would make an assessment at that time.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “I didn’t say when you will. I’ve said would you have the right to.”
DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL PAUL KOLLMER-DORSEY: “It would probably depend on the kind of decision that they make whether we would or wouldn’t and I don’t have sufficient expertise sitting right here to talk about it, but I would be happy to brief you offline on this case. I believe we’ve had one, but I’d be happy to provide another briefing.”
BBG GOVERNOR VICTOR ASHE: “Just for the benefit of my colleagues, we have discussed this in the past, but that was many months ago and time has gone by. This is an issue of importance because of the several million dollar exposure out there, that this Board could be hit with at the time we’re wrestling with recommendations to make tough choices. I think we all need to be alert to the fact that this is there. And I am a little bit surprised that apparently you can’t answer whether either party has the right to appeal. Obviously, the content of the decision would determine whether you would want to appeal and that’s a wise judgment, or the other side. But surely you would know if you could.”