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Posted 9/15/2017

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By Dena O'Dell
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District

LOS ANGELES – The importance of continuing to strengthen internal partnerships within the Los Angeles District and maintain a “one-team” concept led to the Sept. 12 signing of a labor-management agreement.

Col. Kirk Gibbs, District commander, along with Vern Bernhardt, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Union Local Chapter No. 777, signed three copies of the agreement in front of a standing-room-only audience at the District’s office in downtown LA.

The existing labor-management agreement was signed 12 years ago. Negotiations for the new agreement began in May and were completed in September.

The agreement sets the standards for employee performance, and continual development and implementation of modern and progressive work practices to facilitate improved employee performance and efficiency.

The negotiations team reviewed more than 30 articles in the agreement, clarified the language and replaced previous hard copy forms with electronic ones to capture the technology of today, said team member LaShawn Richardson, realty specialist and contracting officer representative with the Asset Management Division.

Some of the key changes for District employees include schedule flexibility and updated grievance procedures, Gibbs said.

 “My desire is that this further strengthens our internal relationships, and it spills over into how we treat each other every day,” Gibbs said. “Although we have a union and management, which are separate entities, at the end of the day, I hope we are one team – the Los Angeles District.”

Mark Cohen, deputy chief of the District’s Regulatory Division and team lead for negotiations, said each side – labor and management – drafted changes and exchanged them prior to negotiations.

Once negotiations began, the team met three days a week for six hours a day over the course of five months.

“We did not want to rush through this. We wanted to make sure we got it right,” Cohen said. “There are a lot of people in the District who were counting on us. It’s been 12 years, and this was our time to make the changes the District needed to meet today’s challenges.”

Cohen described the team’s efforts as collaborative and said the most satisfying thing to see was the development of good working relationships.

“We set out to have a team mentality – a very open exchange of ideas on the table – and it was just a very personal and professional environment,” he said. “I am hopeful that will be a lasting outcome. This was a true team effort; one that I am proud to be a part of.”

Gibbs described the relationship between the District and its Union as solid and built on trust.

“This is very important for the District,” Gibbs said. “The good thing is there is such a good relationship right now between labor and management to know what they want to achieve, come together, talk about it and do it within five months – that’s amazing to me. This was a big step.”

The agreement will now go to the Department of the Army for approval. If approved at the DA-level, it will go into effect 30 days later.

Labor and Management Employee Relations National Federation of Federal Employees Union Chapter No. 777 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District