March 16, 2012
Senate Votes Down Pay Freeze Extension: At the urging of AFGE, the Senate on Tuesday rejected an amendment to the transportation bill (S.1813) that would have frozen federal pay for the third year. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, failed by a 41-57 vote. The $109 billion transportation bill, which funds roads, bridges, and transportation projects, passed the Senate on Wednesday and will now head to the House. The bill also has a provision that would increase federal employees’ mass transit subsidy to $240 a month, up from $125. The maximum subsidy had been $230 since 2009 but it went back to $125 when an extension wasn’t passed by the end of last year.
Justice to Furlough 100,000 Employees if Automatic Cuts Kick In: The Justice Department said it may have to furlough 100,000 of its 116,000 employees for five weeks if the automatic budget cuts take effect in January. Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate appropriations subcommittee last week that the department would lose $2.1 billion in fiscal 2013 under the so-called sequestration budget cuts required under the debt ceiling legislation approved last August. FBI agents and trial attorneys would be among those furloughed, Holder said.
“The consequences are not restricted to simply what happens to the Justice Department here in Washington and in our field offices,” Holder said. “It would be something that would just simply be devastating.”
AFGE Sets Precedent in Winning LEAP Pay: AFGE Local 1858 in Alabama recently won a case in which the Army arbitrarily took away two Garrison Redstone Military Police Investigation (MPI) employees’ Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) without an authorized reason. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSBP) upheld the initial ruling by an administrative judge, who ruled against the agency when it took away a game warden’s and a supervisory criminal investigator’s LEAP based on its arbitrary determination that there would not be a sufficient amount of work to justify their LEAP – a premium pay given to criminal investigators to ensure their availability for unscheduled duty over a 40-hour work week. AFGE argued that the employees’ workload was not changed from the previous year and that taking away their LEAP was considered a reduction in pay. Siding with AFGE, the administrative judge found that under the law and the Office of Personnel Management’s regulations, agencies may only be allowed to cancel LEAP previously given to the employees under specific circumstances, and the projected criminal workload is not one of them. OPM’s specific examples are: an investigator has failed to perform unscheduled duty as assigned; he is unable to perform unscheduled duty for an extended period of time due to health reasons. OPM’s regulations also states that each agency must ensure that each criminal investigator’s hours of unscheduled duty are sufficient to allow him to qualify for LEAP, which is equal to 25 percent of that position’s basic pay. The judge also examined the law’s legislative history and concluded that LEAP is a guaranteed source of income and not one that depends on a yearly discretionary judgment by agencies.
The MSPB upheld the judge’s ruling and the employees are eligible for up to 18 months of back pay and interest. The Local is currently representing another employee in a separate case that is now moving forward using the precedence just established.
“With the recent MSPB decision, there is now a clear legal definition available not only to the U.S. Army, but all federal agencies that have investigators receiving the LEAP supplement,” the Local said. “This is a major victory for the Local.”
AFGE, Air Force Materiel Command Reach Contract Agreement: After just 15 days at the bargaining table, AFGE and the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) have recently completed negotiations on a new labor-management agreement that covers about 35,000 AFMC civilian employees across the country. AFGE Council 214 President Scott Blanch and AFMC commander Gen. Donald Hoffman last month signed the master agreement that will go into effect April 1. The Council was able to get the new contract applied to more than a thousand employees at Hurlburt Field in Florida, who can now enjoy the protections of the contract and clout without the threat of having to start from scratch to get recognition. One of the big changes under the new contract will be performance management in which the nine numerical ratings will no longer be considered for merit promotion. Instead, the agency has now gone to a resume-based electronic application system for job application. Employees will apply for positions based on their qualifications, what they know – not who they know. A new ‘Single Staffing’ tool will replace numerous systems the employees had to navigate to apply for desired positions.
The Council was also successful in bargaining procedures for re-assigning employees to prevent abuses where they were assigned as a penalty or a reward. Reassignment of employees must now be based on seniority. If there are not enough volunteers, inverse seniority kicks in.
“With all the turmoil, uncertainty, and attacks on federal employees and DoD happening, we were way happy to get the contract bargained and locked in,” AFGE Council 214 President Scott Blanch said.
Feds Once Again Serve As an ATM Under Senate Measure: Federal employees were once again used to serve as an ATM for a program that has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The Senate last week approved Senator Max Baucus’ amendment to the Surface Transportation bill that would make changes to the federal employees’ retirement program. Specifically, the amendment would allow agencies to pick and choose which retirement-eligible employees they want to allow to work part-time. The $450 million in projected savings from the amendment would be used to fund rural schools, not programs related to federal employees or deficit reduction. Despite AFGE’s tireless efforts, the amendment passed last Thursday with a vote of 82-16.
“While the change to federal retirement -- a phased, part-time retirement-employment concept -- may be acceptable to the federal-postal community after proper analysis and study, it is completely outrageous for federal and postal employees to be required, again, to serve as the automated teller machine for programs having nothing to do with deficit reduction,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten said. “It’s not “shared sacrifice” if no one else is sharing in the pain. Millionaires, billionaires, corporations, agribusiness subsidies, federal contractors, and hundreds of other legitimate targets, haven’t given up a nickel. Yet federal employees have given up $103-105 billion over ten years.”
Moten said too many senators appear to believe that all federal employees earn at least $100,000 annually, but in fact, 60 percent of the federal workforce is paid the equivalent of a GS-9 or below, the salary of which starts at $47,448.
Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii denounced Congress’ new habit of treating federal employees like a piggy bank.
“I am voting against the Baucus amendment on rural school funding because it is paid for primarily by changes to the federal retirement program,” the senator said. “As a former educator I highly value school funding, but I must stand up against Congress's new habit of treating federal employees like a piggy bank. Congress must stop taking from our dedicated federal employees, talented men and women who we need to keep our nation strong, to fund completely unrelated priorities. If we are going to ask middle class workers to offset the costs of legislation, it should only be as part of a broad agreement involving shared sacrifice by millionaires and billionaires, or to fund other pressing priorities supporting federal employees.”
House Panel Passes Three Anti-Insourcing Bills: The House Small Business Committee on March 7 passed three bills with provisions that would make it more difficult for agencies to bring outsourced work in house even when it saves taxpayers’ dollars or is inherently governmental. These bills are:
H.R. 3851: The bill would establish small business advocates to skew decisions and policies against insourcing in all federal agencies.
H.R. 3980: The bill would allow a contractor advocate to participate in any session or planning process and review any documents related to a decision to insource a function performed by a small business contractor
H.R. 3893: The bill would give contractors, but not federal employees, legal standing to challenge insourcing decisions, even those involving inherently governmental, closely associated with inherently governmental, and critical functions. The bill would also prevent agencies from insourcing unless their insourcing policies had been published for comment and had been reviewed by a contractor advocate, even though there is no publication requirement for outsourcing policies, let alone one that requires outsourcing policies be reviewed by federal employee advocates.
The bills are going to be voted by the full House soon. AFGE is urging lawmakers to remove these anti-insourcing provisions and will seek recorded votes on amendments to strike them before they are sent to the Senate or are included in a larger bill. AFGE on Tuesday urged the committee chairman, Sam Graves, to remove these controversial provisions, explaining that insourcing law and regulations are not anti-small businesses and have had no disproportionately negative affect on small businesses.
AFGE Begins Contract Negotiations with TSA: On Feb. 29, AFGE finally started the first ever collective bargaining agreement negotiations at the Transportation Security Administration. The first issue being discussed is Uniforms and Uniform Allowances, and we exchanged our interests on the subject. Unlike traditional negotiations, which involve proposed contract languages from both sides, our negotiations are interest-based, which requires the full discussion and understanding of each other's interests before options or solutions can be discussed and finally modified, adopted or rejected. The negotiation period is 90 days with a possible 30-day extension. The issues that can be bargained are parking, uniforms, and facilities and services, PASS, awards & recognition, and selection process for special assignments, shift and annual leave process, shift trade process, transfer policy, and conversion from full to part time and vice versa.
How Much Would 3-year Pay Freeze Cost You? $3,842 if you’re a GS-5; $4,759 if you’re a GS-7, and $5,822 if you’re a GS-9. Click here for more details.
Two Years Later, Millions Benefit From Health Care Reform: Millions of Americans are reaping the benefits of the health care reform bill that was signed into law two years ago this month. Last year, for example, 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance through their parents’ plan. More than 212,000 adults and children with a pre-existing condition are now covered. More than 10,000 people are no longer at risk of having their coverage dropped because they got sick. Over 105 million Americans no longer have a limit on their plan, which ensures their coverage will be there when they need it most. Over 32 million people with Medicare have received free preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
AFGE Denounces Central Texas VA’s Failure to Comply with Back Pay Award: A back pay award issued more than a year ago for $2.1 million has yet to be paid to nurse practitioners and physician assistants employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs´ Central Texas Veterans Health Care System even though the Federal Labor Relations Authority rejected the agency’s appeal, AFGE Local 2109 filed a grievance on behalf of these employees who provide direct care to veterans in the Medical Specialty Clinic after employees reported undue pressure from management not to claim overtime. Despite numerous written requests, AFGE Local 2109 still has not received a response from the agency on the status of the February 2011 award. The Local in January filed with the Federal Labor Relations Authority for the agency's failure to comply with the arbitrator's award.
GAO Reports: There’s Now An App for That: The Government Accountability Office has come out with a new, free iPhone/iPad app that provides direct, simple access to new reports, testimonies, videos and podcasts. Simply download the app from the App Store on your device. GAO also has plans to launch a similar application for android devices in the coming months.
Greed Is Not Good: Epic resignation letter from a Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith, who describes the banking firm as a toxic and destructive place where ripping off clients is rewarded.
Trivia Question: Which U.S president sent a letter to AFGE in his last official act as president, supporting the union’s demand to end attacks on government employee rights and the federal civil service merit system?
You Know Who Wins: Watch Japanese chimpanzee Pan-kun and his bulldog sidekick James do sit-ups.
Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” to learn the details of AFGE’s recent agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The show, which originally aired on Friday, March 9, is now available on demand. AFGE National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals President Witold Skwierczynski discussed the union’s conceptual agreement with SSA for a new national contract and the impact of office closures on the public. AFGE Housing and Urban Development Council 222 Executive Vice President Carolyn Federoff then analyzed the federal deficit and what’s needed to balance the budget while Environmental Agency Protection Council 238 Executive Vice President Tom Link discussed the council’s Save the Environment – Save the EPA campaign.
Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at www.federalnewsradio.com.
Quote of the Week
Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii on the Baucus amendment to the Surface Transportation bill that would make changes to the federal and postal employees’ retirement program to pay for unspecified assistance to rural schools.
“I am voting against the Baucus amendment on rural school funding because it is paid for primarily by changes to the federal retirement program. As a former educator I highly value school funding, but I must stand up against Congress’s new habit of treating federal employees like a piggy bank.”
Trivia Answer: Harry S. Truman. Truman was a strong advocate for civil rights and repeatedly supported pay raises for government employees. In 1947, he vetoed the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, the law that paved the way for movements in several states for the passage of “right-to-work-for- less” laws. Congress overrode his veto.