AFGE Files Grievance over Management Rigging TOPS

Transportation Security Officers are angry about the way management changed the rules to rig the TOPS system. They should be angry! AFGE immediately responded, and we have filed a grievance challenging the TSA’s manipulation of the TOPS levels. AFGE attorneys believe TSA management  violated the collective bargaining agreement and TSA’s own policy while undermining teamwork critical to ensuring the safety of the flying public.

In the grievance recently filed with the TSA’s National Resolution Center, AFGE detailed how TSA has violated the bargaining agreement and the 2011 Pistole Determination, which sets forth a framework for a relationship between TSA and the union.

Specifically, our contract requires TSA to provide officers with the levels for TOPS at the start of the year so that you know what’s expected of you. This was an important point during negotiations and getting that language was key to ensuring fairness and transparency in the implementation of TOPS. But then TSA management rigged the system by using a different set of levels never announced till the end of the process.  Instead of the four level announced at the start, the agency created seven levels of evaluation with different amounts of raises and bonuses.

The last minute change meant it was impossible for the employees to understand how to achieve a given performance level – high, low or in between. This is a clear violation of the bargaining agreement, which requires that at the beginning of each performance year, management will establish and communicate performance standards and expectations for employees and will provide employees with established benchmarks toward which the employee can aim his or her per performance.

In addition to violating the bargaining agreement, TSA also violated its own Determination when it unilaterally changed the 2014 TOPS rating scale without collaborating with AFGE. The Determination calls for a “culture of collaboration and employee engagement” and “[l]abor management relations [that are] results oriented, designed to solve problems and resolve issues.”

Collaboration? Not TSA management. TSA refused when we protested the new scale and asked for a delay of the release of the scale, so that the union and TSA could discuss the negative impact on the workforce. Because of the misguided change by TSA, employees who received the same rating will not receive the same salary increase and bonus. That’s simply not fair.

“Changing the scale at the end and creating arbitrary distinctions and subcategories undermines the integrity of the entire system,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer wrote in the grievance.

So, what’s in the grievance? AFGE demands that the arbitrator to order TSA to cancel the new levels and use the ones provided to employees at the beginning of the 2013-14 evaluation year. In awarding TOPS payouts based on the 2013-14 scale, TSA must ensure that no employee’s pay increase or bonus will be decreased. The union is also asking the arbitrator to order TSA to work collaboratively with AFGE to develop TOPS in a way that complies with the Determination and the contract. 

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