FY 2000 Strategic Plan Goal #1

FLRA Strategic Plan Goal 1

To consistently provide high quality services that timely resolve disputes in the Federal labor-management relations community.

Summary: In order to accomplish FLRA Strategic Plan Goal 1, FLRA established 14 performance goals in its FY 1999 Annual Performance Plan. At the conclusion of FY 2000, FLRA met or exceeded 10 of the 14 Strategic Plan Goal 1 performance goals. The FLRA substantially met the remaining four goals.

The 14 performance goals focused on: 1) case processing targets to ensure the timely processing and resolution of disputes; 2) targets to reduce the number of cases which are defined as overage and ultimately the age of the pending case inventory; 3) standards and techniques to ensure high quality services; 4) review of internal regulations and procedures; and 5) work process changes to respond to customer needs.

In implementing its performance goals, in FY 2000 FLRA continued to resolve labor-management disputes in a timely manner. Notably, the agency successfully managed the age of its pending inventory and improved case processing times. For example, the Office of General Counsel (OGC) continued to carefully manage its unfair labor practice caseload by ensuring that no more than 15% of pending unfair labor practice cases were over 90 days old -- a 50% reduction since FY 1997. The OGC also ended the year with only 16 representation cases overage -- an all-time low. Similarly, at the end of the year, the Authority had only 9% of its cases pending merits review over nine months old -- down from 24% at the end of the previous year. The average age of all pending Authority cases fell to 86 days -- more than a 50% reduction from the beginning of FY 2000. The FSIP exceeded its goal to issue decisions and orders by 21 days, thereby improving its case processing times to resolve Federal impasses.

The following describes the specific performance related to each of the 14 performance goals.

Performance Goal: Ensure that no more than 15% of the Unfair Labor Practice cases pending are over 90 days without initial dispositive action. Actual Performance: Met the Goal -- 15% of the Unfair Labor Practice cases awaiting initial dispositive action were over 90 days old.

Performance Analysis: This goal was met. The goal was developed and implemented by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to emphasize timely Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) case processing.

The OGC had 15% of its ULP caseload awaiting initial disposition at the end of FY 2000. The OGC received 5,638 unfair labor practice charges in FY 2000 and produced 5,707 initial dispositive actions.

The objective of this performance goal is to manage the unfair labor practice charge caseload to ensure the issuance of a timely initial disposition of each charge that is filed. Thus, the goal seeks to ensure that of the number of unfair labor practice charges pending initial disposition, no more than 15% will be over the age of 90 days old from the date the unfair labor practice charge was filed. Accomplishment of this goal is affected by a number of factors including: 1) the number and complexity of unfair labor practice charges filed; 2) the number and complexity of representation cases filed; 3) the number and complexity of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) cases and training services provided; 4) staffing; and 5) budget, especially funding of travel requirements to facilitate case processing.

This FY 2000 performance result represents a steady reduction in overage cases from 31% in FY 1997, 25% in FY 1998, and 16% in FY 1999. This reduction in overage cases is attributed to, among other things, the following: 1) productivity of staff; 2) the monitoring of case intake; 3) the management of pending cases in order to facilitate the early transfer of cases between Regional Offices; 4) a formal quarterly management review of pending caseload to transfer cases among the OGC's seven Regional Offices to ensure timely and cost-effective disposition; and 5) OGC delivery of ADR services. Consistent with the revised FLRA Unfair Labor Practice case processing regulations, the OGC provides training, education, intervention and facilitation services to assist the parties in resolving disputes prior to the filing of unfair labor practice charges and at every stage of case processing after a charge is filed. In addition, newly certified bargaining units and agencies that are experiencing a high number of unfair labor practice charge filings are being targeted for the delivery of ADR services.

Based upon experience, the OGC performance goals for FY 2001 and FY 2002 will remain the same as that of FY 2000 -- to ensure that no more than 15% of the ULP caseload awaiting initial dispositive action is over 90 days old. The strategic actions discussed above have had a positive impact on increasing productivity in ULP initial dispositive actions and in reducing the number of older ULP cases. These actions are being continued in FY 2001 with the expectation that this performance goal will be met.

Performance Goal: Ensure that no more than 15% of the representation cases pending are over 90 days without notice of hearing issued. Actual Performance: Substantially Met the Goal -- 23% of the pending representation cases were over 90 days old without notice of hearing issued.

Performance Analysis: This goal was substantially met. The goal was developed and implemented by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to emphasize timely representation case processing.

This performance goal was substantially met, even though pending caseload more than 90 days old without notice of hearing issued was 23% for the following reasons. First, actual FY 2000 performance represents a significant reduction from 51% in FY 1997 and 41% in FY 1998. Second, the OGC reduced the total number of pending representation cases without issuance of a notice of hearing to 70 cases, resulting in a 47% reduction in pending caseload. Similarly, the actual number of overage cases without notice of hearing decreased to only 16 cases in FY 2000 -- the lowest number of overage representation cases in OGC history. Thus, while the OGC was able to substantially reduce the total number of pending cases and the number of overage cases pending, the statistical consequence is that the percent of overage cases increased slightly. During FY 2000, the OGC received 435 new representation cases and closed 492 representation cases.

The OGC continues to emphasize timely representation case processing. In this period of continuing Federal government reorganizations and downsizing, disputes regarding the appropriateness of existing and/or newly certified bargaining units are increasing. Specifically, OGC management has emphasized: 1) the need to carefully monitor pending representation cases where a Notice of Hearing has not issued; 2) delivery of training and education services to assist the parties in OGC processes; 3) pre-filing assistance consistent with the Authority's Representation regulations to narrow or resolve the issues in dispute prior to the filing of a representation case; and 4) the management of pending cases in order to facilitate the early transfer of cases between Regional Offices.

Based upon experience, the OGC performance goals for FY 2001 and FY 2002 will remain the same as that of FY 2000 -- to ensure that no more than 15% of the representation caseload without notice of hearing is over 90 days old. The strategic actions discussed above have had a positive impact on increasing productivity in representation case processing and in reducing the number of older representation cases. These actions are being continued in FY 2001 with the expectation that this performance goal will be met.

Performance Goal: Ensure a median age of 70 days from issuance of complaint to hearing date. Actual Performance: Substantially Met the Goal -- Median age of 75 days from issuance of complaint to hearing.
Performance Goal: Ensure that no more than 10% of Office of Administrative Law Judges cases pending decision will reach hearing in more than 120 days. Actual Performance: Met the Goal -- 10% of OALJ cases pending decision reached hearing in more than 120 days.

Performance Analysis: The first goal was substantially met; the second goal was met. These two related goals were developed and implemented by the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) to ensure that hearings were conducted in a timely manner in order to resolve ULP complaints pending before an Administrative Law Judge.

By establishing the first goal -- a median age of 70 days from issuance of a complaint to hearing date, OALJ attempted to ensure that the parties received a prompt hearing of their case. This goal was not met, the actual median age was 75 days at the end of FY 2000. This was due, in large part, to an increase in case intake and the number of hearings. During FY 2000, the OALJ held 40 hearings -- a 20% increase over FY 1999, and a 67% increase over FY 1998.

By establishing the second goal -- no more than 10% to reach hearing in more that 120 days, the OALJ attempted to limit the number of cases that exceeded the median and became overage. Despite the increase in the number of hearings, the OALJ was able to meet its goal by managing the age of its cases pending decision.

Some of the factors that affect the OALJ ability to meet these two goals include: 1) the level of case intake; 2) staffing; 3) the availability of the parties and the ALJ's to participate in and coordinate hearings; and 4) the extent of settlement negotiations. Furthermore, in some instances, the parties are in serious settlement negotiations and ask to postpone the hearing. This situation at times may extend the median age of some cases and affect other cases on the same calendar schedule.

Based upon OALJ experience, the FY 2001 and FY 2002 performance goals will continue to focus on ensuring that hearings are conducted in a timely manner and limiting the number of cases that exceed the median and become overage.

Performance Goal: Ensure median age of 90 days from close of hearing to decision. Actual Performance: Substantially Met this Goal -- Median age was 95 days for OALJ cases from close of hearing to decision.
Performance Goal: Ensure that no more than 10% of pending OALJ decisions will exceed 165 days. Actual Performance: Exceeded the Goal -- 6% of cases pending OALJ decision exceeded 165 days.

Performance Analysis: The first goal was substantially met; the second goal was exceeded. The two related goals, which were developed and implemented by the OALJ, were established to ensure that OALJ decisions are issued in timely manner.

By establishing the first goal -- a median age target of 90 days from the close of hearing to issuance of an OALJ decision, the OALJ attempted to ensure that the parties received a written decision in a timely manner. This goal was not met; the actual median age was 95 days at the end of FY 2000. This goal was not met due, in large part, to the increase in the number of hearings and cases submitted for decision. As noted above, the number of hearings increased in FY 2000 and, as a result, the number of OALJ decisions increased by over 40% from FY 1999.

By establishing the second goal -- OALJ attempted to limit the number of cases that exceeded the median and became overage. The second goal was exceeded as only 6% of the cases pending OALJ decision were over 165 days from the hearing date at the end of FY 2000.

The factors that affect the OALJ ability to reach these goals are: 1) case intake; 2) staffing; 3) complexity of issues; and 4) the extent to which parties' request extensions of time to file briefs impact the issuance of ALJ decisions.

The OALJ goals for FY 2001 continue to reflect median age targets to ensure OALJ decisions are issued in a timely manner. In addition, OALJ established more challenging goals in FY 2001 (no more than 10% of cases pending decision over 160 days old) to limit the number of cases pending decision.

Performance Goal: Ensure that no more than 10% of cases pending decision are over 273 days old. Actual Performance: Exceeded the Goal - 9% of cases pending decision were over 273 days old at the end of FY 2000.
Performance Goal: Issue at least 216 Authority Member decisions. Actual Performance: Substantially Met the Goal -- 205 Authority Member decisions were issued.

Performance Analysis: The first goal was exceeded; the second goal was substantially met. The above interrelated goals were developed and implemented by the Authority to ensure that it issued the maximum number of decisions possible, while at the same time, reducing the number of overage cases pending merits review and ultimately the age of the pending case inventory.

Factors affecting the Authority's ability to achieve these two goals include: 1) the number of pending cases at the beginning of a fiscal year; 2) the number of new cases filed; 3) staffing levels; and 4) the complexity and the number of issues in the cases filed.

The Authority exceeded the first goal. At the close of FY 2000, the Authority had only 9% of the cases pending merits review over 273 days (nine months). The case age for purposes of this goal was measured from the date that all procedural requirements were met by the parties and the merits of the case were forwarded for review by the Authority. In FY 1999, the Authority concentrated on significantly reducing the number of cases awaiting merits decision for more than one year. In FY 2000, the Authority set a more demanding goal of ensuring that no more than 10% of cases pending merits review were over nine months old. Despite a vacant Member seat on the three Member Authority for almost half of FY 2000, the Authority exceeded this goal. The Authority reduced the number of such pending overage cases by almost half from the prior fiscal year. The Authority also reduced the period of time for all parties awaiting decisions. The average age of all pending cases fell to 86 days, more than a 50% reduction from the start of FY 2000. This achievement was due in part to an increased emphasis on collaboration and alternative dispute resolution in negotiability cases, as well as application of the Authority's revised negotiability regulations effective April 1999.

The Authority substantially met the second part of this goal, issuing 205 merits decisions during FY 2000. Despite the vacant Member seat, the Authority issued approximately the same number of merits decisions as in FY 1999. By continuing to carefully manage its inventory, the Authority expects to meet this goal in FY 2001.

As a result of the Authority's case production efforts in FY 2000, it was able to set an even more stringent performance goal for FY 2001 of ensuring that no more than 10% of the cases pending merits review are over six months old.

Performance Goal: Reduce median age of Federal Service Impasses Panel cases to 68 days where jurisdictional issues are raised and jurisdiction is declined. Actual Performance: Exceeded the Goal -- Reduced median age of Federal Service Impasse Panel cases to 66 days where jurisdictional issues are raised and jurisdiction is declined.
Performance Goal: Reduce median age of Federal Service Impasses Panel cases to 94 days that settle voluntarily after procedural determination. Actual Performance: Exceeded the Goal -- Reduced median age of Federal Service Impasses Panel cases to 81 days that settle voluntarily after procedural determination.
Performance Goal: Reduce median age of Federal Service Impasses Panel cases to 148 days that close through Decisions and Orders. Actual Performance: Exceeded the Goal -- Reduced median age of Federal Service Impasses Panel cases to 127 days that close through Decisions and Orders.

Performance Analysis: The above three goals were exceeded. The goals were established by the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) in order to ensure the timely resolution of cases presented before the Panel.

The Panel identified performance targets for the timely resolution of three of the most significant types of case disposition: 1) cases where jurisdiction is declined; 2) cases where the parties reach a voluntary settlement after the Panel has asserted jurisdiction; and 3) cases where terms are imposed through a written Decision and Order by the Panel. In order to carefully manage the three types of case dispositions identified in the Annual Performance Plan, case processing steps were identified and regularly monitored. These included: 1) starting and completing investigations including the jurisdictional determination; 2) scheduling and conducting meetings to mediate voluntary settlements; and 3) drafting and issuing written decisions after cases are considered by Panel Members at periodic Panel meetings.

Among the factors affecting case processing times are: 1) staffing; 2) the number of cases filed; 3) the number and complexity of the issues involved, including jurisdictional questions raised; 4) the ability to obtain the parties' cooperation in submitting documents and scheduling joint meetings; and 5) how cases that are ready to be presented to Panel Members for resolution align with pre-scheduled Panel meeting dates. Although historically the first two have been the most important variables, actual processing times depend on all of them. During FY 2000, these factors combined to permit the Panel to exceed its overall time targets by a few days in cases where jurisdiction was declined, by over 12 days in cases where the parties reach a voluntary settlement after the Panel has asserted jurisdiction, and by three weeks in cases where terms are imposed through a written Decision and Order by the Panel.

While the number of cases filed with the Panel during FY 2000 was about the same as during FY 1999, 18 more cases were closed than during FY 1999. The increase in case dispositions occurred primarily in three areas. In FY 2000, the Panel: 1) issued four more arbitration awards; 2) issued five more Decisions and Orders; and 3) assisted the parties in settling seven more disputes voluntarily during the initial investigation, than in FY 1999.

As always, the timeliness of case dispositions is only one measure of the Panel's success in performing its dispute resolution mission. Since its inception in 1970, the Panel has advocated and encouraged the voluntary settlement of disputes by the parties themselves as the best type of impasse resolution, and selects procedures designed to maximize the achievement of that goal. The Panel's experience confirms that there is a high degree of correlation between face-to-face assistance and the voluntary settlement of disputes. In this regard, of the 45 cases during FY 2000 where the Panel provided face-to-face assistance, 20 resulted in complete settlements of the impasses. In most of the others, the issues at impasse were narrowed, and its representatives were able to make better recommendations to the Panel for resolving the disputes than if it had to rely only on a written record. Recognizing that the Panel cannot afford to send representatives to the site of every dispute, and that not every impasse merits such treatment, mediation efforts frequently are supplemented by telephone conferences and other techniques. Overall, complete voluntary settlements occurred in over 36% (or 64 cases) of all case dispositions in FY 2000. In summary, the Panel was able to exceed all of its performance goals in the area of timeliness during FY 2000 while maintaining its high rates of voluntary settlement of Federal sector impasses.

Given its experience in FY 2000, and the complexity and unpredictability of the variables listed above, the Panel has not made adjustments to FY 2001 goals related to the timely disposition of Panel cases.

Performance Goal: Consistently comply with established quality standards; evaluate the effectiveness of quality performance measures. Actual Performance: Met the Goal -- as described below in Performance Analysis.

Performance Analysis: This goal was met. The goal was developed and implemented by the three FLRA components responsible for resolving disputes.

The FLRA established quality standards and incorporated them into employees' performance plans, and subsequently confirmed that quality standards had been established and steps had been taken to improve quality. Using the FLRA performance management plan, the agency has maintained compliance with these standards.

In 1996, the Authority established quality standards and incorporated them into employees' performance plans. Using the agency's performance appraisal system, the Authority has maintained compliance with these standards at the employee level. The Authority developed a comprehensive action plan for FY 2000 to conduct an evaluation of the quality of its decisions and measures for assessing that quality. The Authority established an internal task force to conduct the evaluation. The task force utilized a variety of tools to review the quality of decisions and potential measures, including conducting a focus group with Authority customers and bench marking other similar Federal and state agencies. In FY 2001, the Authority is reviewing the results of the evaluation and will take appropriate follow-up action.

As one measure of the Authority's continuing emphasis on the quality of its decisions, Authority decisions issued in the last few years and reviewed on the merits by Federal Courts have received extremely favorable treatment in the courts. Authority decisions issued during the most recent five-year period were the subject of favorable appellate opinions in approximately 89% of the cases, as compared with an overall favorable rate of only 52% for Authority decisions reviewed in the preceding 16 years.

In FY 1999, the OGC published quality standards in unfair labor practice case processing in its revision of the ULP Case Handling Manual. In FY 2000, the OGC revised its Representation Case Handling Manual, Litigation Manual, Hearing Officers' Guide and developed a Representation Case Law Manual to further refine and clarify established quality standards.

Compliance with the quality standards is continually monitored within the OGC. Each Regional Office develops a specific Quality Review Protocol to ensure a comprehensive quality review and to assess the effectiveness of their quality reviews. At the Regional Office level, each protocol defines the document or action to be reviewed, the regional reviewer, the method of review, the standards for quality review and the type of feedback to staff on the review.

At the OGC National Office, the effectiveness of the quality performance measures is assessed through the appeals review of Regional Director decisions not to issue a complaint; review of complaints and the outcome of cases that proceed to trial; dismissal letter review of cases that are not appealed; and, the review of settlement agreements. Feedback on the effectiveness of quality review measures is provided to Regional Directors during quarterly OGC management meetings.

Quality standards for the processing of representation petitions have also been implemented. The effectiveness of these standards is assessed in the review of representation decision and orders, election agreements, certifications, notices of hearings and advice memoranda submissions.

Performance Goal: Evaluate the effectiveness of the new negotiability regulations issued in FY 1999. Actual Performance: Met the Goal -- as described below in the Performance Analysis.

Performance Analysis: The Authority met this goal as it began a multi-year evaluation of the effectiveness of the FLRA negotiability regulations that were revised and issued in FY 1999.

In FY 1999, the Authority revised its negotiability regulations in order to improve and expedite negotiability proceedings. Significant aspects of the regulations include: 1) post-petition conferences designed to narrow and clarify issues; 2) revision of procedures to enable the Authority to resolve all aspects of a dispute, if necessary; and 3) clarification of the responsibilities of each party.

In FY 2000, the Authority began to evaluate the effectiveness of the revised regulations to determine if the Authority had achieved its goals to improve and expedite negotiability proceedings. Participants in the Authority Leadership Development Program are conducting a multi-year evaluation of the revised negotiability appeals regulations. In May 2000, the participants conducted the first part of this evaluation. The FY 2000 evaluation included analyzing selected data on negotiability cases, surveying parties in negotiability cases, surveying FLRA staff as negotiability cases were processed to merits decision, and analyzing responses to surveys at regular intervals. This initial evaluation revealed that the revised regulations are generally achieving their intended results. A final evaluation is scheduled for completion in April 2001, by which time the regulations will have been in effect for two years.

Performance Goal: Evaluate the effectiveness of the process for resolving exceptions to arbitration awards. Actual Performance: Met the Goal -- as described below in the Performance Analysis.

Performance Analysis: The Authority met this goal, completing a review of the effectiveness of its process for resolving exceptions to arbitration awards during FY 2000.

The Authority established an internal task force to conduct the review. The task force obtained input from FLRA staff, parties and arbitrators. In particular, the task force examined the results of prior external focus group initiatives on arbitration exceptions, the results of the 1998 FLRA customer survey, and comments provided by participants at the annual Society of Federal Labor