September 27, 2019 - AFGE and SSA reached an agreement in principle on the 2019 contract
Edited on 09-28-2019 to include our General Committee's Contract Bargaining Wrap-Up statement:
Contract Bargaining Wrap-up
The Union returned to Baltimore to bargain with the Agency after the contract failed ratification. The Union argued with management that the members were not happy with the severe cutbacks in existing employee benefits and protections and severe limitations upon union representatives. We proposed a new schedule to allow the parties to fully negotiate the failed contract. That all changed on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied the Union’s petition for appealing the Executive Orders lawsuit, which would effectively reinstate the anti-employee, anti-union Executive Orders next week. The court’s decision put wind into management’s sails and completely changed the tone of our discussions. Management was further emboldened and stated that they would apply the Executive Orders to the failed contract provisions and even to the terms imposed by the Federal Service Impasses Panel, IMMEDIATELY. In other words, the court decision made an already difficult situation much worse.
The Executive Orders would have meant only 45,000 hours of official time, no right to file grievances or arbitration over performance and severe disciplinary issues, only 30 days to improve performance, and no union space. This would have been worse than what the Panel ordered and what the members voted down.
We aren’t happy with how things ended up, but we can say that nothing was lost from the Panel Order or the tentative contract, and we did receive several gains.
Some of the Issues we argued - that the Agency refused to change:
· Vision Reimbursement (VSD)
· Performance Quality Reviews (PQR)
· Performance Assistance Plans (PA’s)
· Opportunity to Perform Successfully plans (OPS)
Issues we did get:
· The Union is able to retain a small amount of Union space. Better than the Panel Order and the Executive Orders.
· Protected Employee Rights and Their Rights to File Grievances Over Numerous Issues that would have been barred by the Executive Orders. -such as appraisal grievances, overtime protections, and flextime.
· Office Union Reps will be able to have a file cabinet for their Union files – though the Union may have to provide the actual file cabinet.
· Overtime cannot be distributed or withheld as an award or penalty.
· Overtime must be distributed fairly.
· 125,000 hours of Official Time – a 75,000 hour increase over what we had with the FSIP decision and over the Executive Orders.
· 20 Union positions with an 840 hour cap – up from a 600 hour cap. Higher than the Panel Order and the Executive Orders.
· All other Union Reps are capped at 400 hours, rather than 250 hours. Higher than the Panel Order and the Executive Orders.
· No limit to use of LWOP for Union Reps. Higher than the Panel Order.
· Duration of the Contract will be 6 years, rather than 7. Better than the Panel Order and the Executive Orders.
We were able to make a terrible situation less worse by persuading the Agency to make a deal when it did NOT have to. This contract is certainly not what we hoped for, but it will allow us to avoid the worst that the Executive Orders would have imposed upon us. We will live to fight another day, we will protect fundamental employee rights, and keep our union moving.
The fight is not over, but at least we will have some time and resources to conduct a fight. There will no longer be any Union officials who are on 100% Official Time, 75% Official Time, or even 50% Official Time. Every Union Official will be doing production work and we will be feeling, first hand, the same pains and abuses that every other worker feels. We did not protect our positions at the expense of the issues that are important to the employees. What we did manage to protect, is what will hopefully be enough time and resources to keep the Union alive and functioning so that we can continue to fight for the employees.
The Union is still alive and active.
AFGE General Committee