National Weather Service cancels employees' union contract

A showdown in Washington could affect us here in Hampton Roads.

WAKEFIELD, Va. (WVEC) -- A showdown in Washington could affect us here in Hampton Roads.

We've learned the National Weather Service -- which provides watches and warnings in life-threatening emergencies -- canceled the contract with its labor union. The union represents the meteorologists who issue those alerts.

The president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization called the move a "total surprise" and said "it's bizarre."

He explained the federal agency they work for sent an email saying it was terminating the contract with the union.

Other meteorologists, including the union's vice president Bill Hopkins, shared the shock.

“My first reaction was, 'This is unbelievable,'” he recalled. “I've already received since Friday, over 200 emails from concerned employees on, you know, 'What's this going to do to me?'”

A National Weather Service spokesperson said this has nothing to do with job cuts or budget cuts. The feds maintain termination is a common practice for an "outdated" agreement.

In a press release, the NWS said the move "gives the parties the opportunity to make changes that reflect advancements in technology, changes in the workforce, current operational needs or newer regulatory protections and benefits available to employees."

“They seem to be just doing what they want to do, and I just don't believe that they like the labor union,” Hopkins reacted.

This isn't the first time there's been trouble between the NWS and the union. We were first to tell you about employees' concerns over a plan to change the way field offices, like the one in Wakefield, operate.

Union members said the possible move from staffing offices 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to business hours would mean a degradation of services.

So could the termination of the contract between the agency and the union result in a degradation of services?

The union said while the move affects morale at those field offices, the public trust in the services they provide should weather this storm.

“We are going to do our best to make sure our warnings go out and people's lives are watched after,” Hopkins added.

Right now, the National Weather Service and the union are in negotiations to resolve this conflict. 

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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