News from the VA Bargaining Table
|We have spent the last two weeks drafting and arguing about Article 17 (Employee Rights), Article 21 (Hours of Work), and Article 35 (Time and Leave). The agency has been uncooperative and their proposals are extremely anti-worker.
Yesterday, we gave them an article to review for signature. They had the audacity to change an agreed upon article and had their management co-chair sign it. They gave it back to us and thought we were not going to read it word for word. We sent it back and told them no agreement. We are dealing with a deceptive group of management negotiators.
Article 17 (Employee Rights), was initially almost destroyed. It has taken days to narrow down what disagreements remain. The primary one is the agency's insistence that 38 USC 7422 applies to 5 USC 7102 employees. 5 USC 7102 provides that employees may form, join, assist and represent a union. 38 USC 7422 provides that professional conduct and competence, compensation and peer review are not subject to collective bargaining. This has meant, in practicality, that we can’t grieve such actions, if the Secretary makes a specific decision restricting our ability to grieve one of these issues.
We have been unable to figure out why VA thinks 7422 applies to our rights with respect to being in a union. We have asked and the agency tells us, to the extent that they can explain it at all, that they don’t want Title 38 employees to have official time. Of course, we have filed a national grievance on that very matter and the agency has told us nationally that Title 38 employees may use official time to negotiate. More importantly, we are convinced that there is no applicability of 7422 to any part of employee rights.
Article 21 (Hours of Work) has been equally difficult. Management wants to have full discretion to grant overtime to whomever they want, among other difficult and unacceptable proposals. We have agreed to one paragraph so far in that article, as the agency wants the unrestrained discretion that they have asked for in other articles.
Article 35 (Time and Leave) is in complete disarray, more than the other articles. The agency scrapped all of our headings. They just gave us a bunch of paragraphs with duplication and typographical errors and statements unrelated to the law. For example, The agency wanted to not allow sick leave unless the supervisor approved it. It also insists that employees call in for sick leave before the employee’s tour starts. VA continues to insist on it even when we pointed out that an employee may be in a car accident on the way to work and unable to call in until after the start of their tour.
It remains important that we show solidarity for our rights by wearing RED on Wednesdays for our ongoing #RedforFeds campaign. We must send VA the message that we aren’t going to just fade away, that our rights are important to us.
Thank you for all that you do.
Join us in demanding the dignity, fairness and respect we deserve by engaging with employees and keeping them informed.
To learn more and see how you can get involved with our national campaign for Dignity, Fairness, and Respect, visit afge.org/VAContract