AFGE Denounces VA’s Latest Attack on Workers, Veterans

Categories: VA, The Insider

AFGE is denouncing a proposal from President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie that would strip 250,000 employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs of many of the rights and protections they’ve won through collective bargaining. The proposal is clearly an attempt to set VA employees up to fail and pave the way for VA privatization.

The 331-page proposal was submitted to AFGE’s National VA Council on May 2 as part of the contract negotiations set to begin May 27.

Here are a few examples of how Wilkie’s proposal would affect VA workers’ lives. This outrageous proposal would:

  • Severely restrict the use of telework and authorize managers to cancel or change your telework agreement for any reason with just 12 hours advance notice;
  • Reduce management accountability by limiting your ability to file grievances. You won’t, for example, be able to file a grievance against an unjust disciplinary action;
  • Eliminate the process that prevents retaliation and harassment, thereby discouraging employees from bringing to light issues that hurt their ability to take care of veterans;
  • Allow managers to play favorites by banning collective bargaining over a range of currently permitted issues, including employee reassignments and shift changes, disciplinary actions, performance appraisals, reductions in force, physician and dentist pay, and special accommodations for employees with disabilities;
  • Restrict all communications between the union and the agency to the national level, including all grievances and unfair labor practice charges. That means individual grievances you file might not be able to be addressed in a timely manner, as they will now join thousands of others at the national level;
  • Limit your access to your union reps by evicting union reps from their offices inside VA facilities and denying them access to computers, laptops, and other equipment used in their representational duties;
  • Require employees to complete a lengthy and intimidating form every year in order to maintain their union membership;
  • Set the duration of the contract at 10 years but allow the agency to make changes to the contract at any time.

Existing provisions they want to eliminate

Wilkie’s proposal deletes entirely or in part 42 articles in the existing contract, including provisions that:

· Require employees to be trained on new equipment or clinical processes needed for their jobs;

· Establish and provide for child care facilities and related services;

· Provide for alternative work schedules;

· Enhance career, promotional, and training opportunities;

· Detail the rights and protections for part-time, temporary, and probationary employees;

· Set rules for administering within-grade pay increases, employee leave, and official travel;

· Encourage effective labor-management cooperation;

· Provide for joint labor-management training.

“Secretary Wilkie is making a mockery of the collective bargaining process to do the bidding of President Trump,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “This is all part of the Trump administration’s strategy to force the VA to fail, thereby paving the road to privatization.”

 

Attack on veterans

More than one-third of VA’s employees are veterans, which allows them to provide veterans with the specialized care they need. VA employees have pioneered groundbreaking treatments for traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress, and other ailments that are far more common among veterans than the general population.

Yet the Trump administration is attacking the women and men who provide that care – stripping away their rights, funneling resources to the for-profit private sector, and failing to fill 49,000 vacancies across the department nationwide.

“As a veteran myself, it makes me sick to see how little regard this administration shows to the workers who serve our veterans day in and day out,” said AFGE District 3 National Vice President Phil Glover, who chairs the AFGE National Executive Council’s Veterans Committee. “VA employees deserve to be treated with the same respect we expect them to show the veterans they serve.”

VA Council President Alma Lee said VA employees deserve a contract that helps them better serve veterans by ensuring they have the resources and support they need.

“Wilkie’s outrageous proposals would set the VA up to fail,” she said. “I look forward to having serious and healthy discussions and negotiating a contract that will put us all on a path that will allow the VA to succeed.”


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