E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

AFGE filed with FSIP on June 3, arguing that the Department of Veterans Affairs had proposed significant changes to its collective agreement with the union and then refused to negotiate in good faith with AFGE representatives for counter-proposals substantially similar to those of the current agreement. Ibidun Roberts: Oh yes. The VA is therefore seeking a ten-year contract. We are looking for the traditional three-year contract. There are many reasons for this. One of them is that other unions can challenge our certification after three years, but changes are happening as well. And if these changes happen, we want to be able to open the agreements and accept those changes. And this is especially true for the VA, which has had a number of changes. For example, the Accountability Act is an important change that we want to include in the agreement. Another is President Trump`s executive orders, if we had a 10-year agreement, we would not be able to get changes, like the ones I just mentioned. A shorter term is better than a 10-year term.

Tom Temin: Give us an idea of the situation in which the whole treaty is in terms of the timing and expiration of the existing treaty. VA management and AFGE began negotiations in May 2019 for a new collective agreement, but the Agency twice declared a deadlock in October and December of that year. On December 19, 2019, the VA asked the Federal Services Impasse Panel to intervene, a situation that has been going on ever since. The Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), made up of 10 presidents appointed to resolve deadlocks in agency union negotiations, significantly changed the agreement in its November 5 ruling, allegedly to bring the labor contract into compliance with several executive orders of the Trump administration, which brings in federal staff. Collective bargaining between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Federation of Government Employees has stalled for more than a year, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed parts of the country and increased workload and risk to health care professionals, has only exacerbated differences between management and unions over the best administration of the confederation.

 

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