March 7, 2022
To further improve communication lines and respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you, our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. This NVAC Briefing will significantly enhance how we communicate and how we share new information, keeping you better informed.
Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President
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VA/NVAC Contract Negotiations UPDATE
Week #1 of Bargaining Session #1: Phoenix, AZ (March 1-4, 2022)
On Tuesday, March 1, 20222, NVAC and VA began the first week of negotiations on the 12-article “limited reopener” of our Master Agreement. Session #1 is being held in Phoenix, AZ. In sum, it has been what we expected. Management is bent on taking away as much as they wanted when we last negotiated in 2019.
Thus far, we’ve discussed two articles:
Article 12 (Details & Temporary Promotions) and Article 14 (Discipline & Adverse Action).
Article 14 (Discipline & Adverse Action).
In VA’s initial proposals, Management sought to reduce all deadlines for employees to review and respond to proposed discipline, and they want to eliminate admonishments for all employees except for pure Title 38s. VA also wants to eliminate the requirement to issue proposed admonishments and reprimands, and instead, merely issue the final decision because proposals are “administratively burdensome.” Further, VA wants to have the article governed by VA Directives and Handbooks that they can change. Moreover, they propose that all reprimands concerning “patient abuse” (as determined by the supervisor) cannot be removed from your personnel file.
Management continues to cling to the desire to use 38 USC 714 in issuing adverse actions. They want to ignore federal court decisions that require Management to apply “Douglas” factors in evaluating the propriety of a penalty and that they must use the preponderance of evidence standard of proof at the administrative level within VA. They refuse to acknowledge these court decisions in their proposals.
We have pushed back against Management proposals forcefully. We have also argued at length against even minor changes to the current contractual provisions, such as insisting that if it takes more than 8 hours to review an evidence file, employees should receive more duty time to do so.
At Management’s request, we had lengthy discussions as to why discipline ought to be “fair, equitable and timely.” Those discussions were marked by Management questions about what those words mean and why should discipline be constrained in those ways, which defies basic principles of due process.
Article 12: (Details & Temporary Promotions).
In our proposals, NVAC sought to ensure that employees and union representatives are provided with advanced written notice of a detail so that the Union can ensure the job can be performed safely and effectively. But Management proposed that the local union can be notified up to 7 days AFTER the detail begins. Similarly, we proposed to require that VA explain in writing why an employee is not selected for a detail, but Management is pushing back. We also continue to have “seniority” decided at the local level, but Management strenuously argued that ALL employees’ seniority should be their Service Computation Date (SCD). We told them that simply would not work.
NVAC proposed that each VA Local and facility create a “Selection Oversight Team” (SOT) to review all details and temporary promotions on a quarterly basis and address any concerns about the selection process. Management sees value in the SOT, and we continue to discuss how it would operate.
With regard to Temporary Promotions, we want supervisors and employees to know that failure to comply with the contract may result in back pay and interest. The contract should educate employees on their rights. Management, not surprisingly, objected and said that employees can file grievances if they wish.
Management wanted to eliminate the ability of employees to request details for medical reasons, and instead, require them to go through the reasonable accommodation process. That change would delay the process of providing a detail for medical reasons beyond the time it would be useful for employees who have a temporary disability, like a broken bone that would warrant telework, for example.
One of our biggest arguments in Article 12 came from an issue that will underly this entire renegotiation: Management wants to eliminate ALL local bargaining and require the parties to negotiate everything at the national level. They have also ignored the ground rules and procedures we use to exchange proposals.
Today, we return to the bargaining table for our second week in Phoenix. NVAC is ready to present our counterproposals on Article 12, but Management says they need more time in caucus to work on Article 14. A summary of bargaining session #1 will be sent to AFGE members next week.
AFGE National VA Council | 540-345-6301 | www.afgeNVAC.org