Bargaining obligation disputes generally occur when a union or agency claims that, under the circumstances, it does not have an obligation to bargain with the other party, even though the proposal may be one that it is legal for unions and federal government agencies to negotiate about. If the refusal to bargain is not justified under the law, it may be an unfair labor practice (ULP), and the party seeking to bargain may file a ULP charge with the appropriate Regional Office. Examples of this kind of dispute are an agency's claim that it is not obligated to bargain over a change in employee working conditions because the change is not significant or because it already has an agreement with the union that covers this subject. The General Counsel has published a variety of General Counsel Guidance that explain the issues involved in particular bargaining disputes.
If an agency that is refusing to bargain also claims that specific proposals made by the union are not among the legal subjects of bargaining, the bargaining problem may also involve a negotiability dispute. The procedures for resolving negotiability disputes are explained below. There are specific Authority regulations that explain the procedural options of parties who have a negotiating problem that includes both a bargaining obligation dispute and a negotiability dispute.