The negotiations between AFGE and the Social Security Administration over the agency’s plan to reopen physical offices in 2022 are set to take place in December.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit early 2020, SSA has moved most of its operations online to ensure continued services to the American people and safety for both employees and beneficiaries, many of whom are the most vulnerable group of people during the pandemic.
Online operations have been a huge success in providing faster services and reducing a backlog. If you file a social security claim, for example, in most cases you’ll get an appointment in two to three days. Before the pandemic, SSA took your name and number and would have to call you back because there was nothing available in the next two months.
Not all SSA workers work from home. Some have been in the offices to provide services that have to be done in person like handing out checks.
As SSA is preparing to reopen its physical offices as early as January 2022, AFGE wants to make sure that there are reentry and safety procedures in place and that the successful telework program is fully utilized.
SSA and AFGE’s SSA General Committee, which comprises all six AFGE SSA councils, will begin bargaining with the agency in December.
AFGE’s National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, the largest SSA council that represents field operations employees, is seeking crucial information on these important issues to prepare its proposal for negotiations with the agency and make sure there are enough resources to carry out the agency’s mission before SSA offices reopen.
The information requested by the council includes:
- Work assignments and workloads that are going to be done by employees in the office and those working remotely effective Jan. 3, 2022.
- The appointment calendar for the in-office appointments.
- The schedule for each employee’s telework days and the procedures for switching days and rotating days amongst employees.
- The numbers and types and grades of employees expected to be on duty on Jan. 3, 2022.
- The numbers, types, and grades of employees each facility should have on duty on Jan. 3, 2022.
- The revised performance expectations for each work assignment.
- The high transmission rate protocols for each office.
- The counties that each office is considering to make the high transmission rate determination.
- The procedures the guards will be using to verify the immunization status of visitors.
- A floor plan for each facility to show that six feet is being maintained between chairs in the lobby, at interviewing windows, and in the employee areas.
- The revised lease for each facility showing the cleaning schedules and verifying that the cleaning crew is qualified.
- The MDS for the cleaning chemicals.
- How much work is anticipated in each facility and how many staff hours that is expected to take.
The union’s need for all of the above is to draft proposals to ensure the safety of employees and the public and to determine if each office has sufficient staff. Since the agency is required under President Biden’s Executive Order 14003 to bargain over permissive subjects, if SSA doesn’t have enough staff to handle the anticipated work, the union can make proposals on numbers, types and grades as well as moving work to other facilities.
The union also wants to avoid a situation where management miscalculates workloads and order teleworking employees to return to the office within two hours and employees have no right to file a grievance.