The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to resume contract negotiations with its largest union after a months-long dispute.
The EPA and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents thousands of agency workers, will start negotiations within 30 days under a settlement agreement, the AFGE said in a statement on Thursday.
The union has agreed to withdraw unfair labor practice charges against the EPA.
The EPA in June sought to implement a new contract for its employees without union agreement. A federal labor court has told the EPA it should go back to bargaining with the union.
Last month, more than 220 lawmakers wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerLobbying world Science matters: Thankfully, EPA leadership once again agrees EPA bans sale of COVID-19 disinfectant authorized under Trump MORE urging the agency to restart negotiations.
AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley called the settlement a "major breakthrough" in the Thursday statement.
"We are fighting uphill against an administration that wants to strip workers of their rights and make it harder for employees to do their jobs," Kelley said. "We must keep up the pressure on EPA management to ensure they stick to the agreement and bargain with us in good faith on a new contract that adheres to the law and equips employees with the resources and support needed to carry out their vital mission."
The Hill has reached out to the EPA for comment on the settlement.
Government Executive quoted Wheeler as acknowledging the development in an email to employees.
“Today, we reached an agreement in which the union would withdraw pending litigation over the July implementation, and the parties would return to the bargaining table,” he wrote.“The parties will negotiate matters important to our employees, including telework, work schedules and leave ... The agency remains dedicated to bargaining in good faith with its unions, and looks forward to sitting down with AFGE in the coming weeks and months to complete negotiations in a timely manner, to benefit our employees and the American public.”