The AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are back in Washington, D.C. for a new round of contract negotiations over the largest union contract in the federal government.
Securing a strong Master Agreement is of the utmost importance, and NVAC is proud to fight for your rights at the table!
The focus of this round of negotiations, which is taking place between May 23 and June 3, is on three articles that were also the focus of the previous round of negotiations in Orlando on April 25-May 6:
Article 14: Discipline and Adverse Action
Article 16: Employee Awards and Recognition
Article 46: Local Supplement
Here’s a recap of our union’s proposal and the VA’s proposal. Stay tuned for more updates on these important negotiations!
You can also listen to a recap of the Orlando negotiations here.
Article 14 (Discipline and Adverse Action)
Background: While most employees go through their VA career without facing disciplinary action, AFGE NVAC is here to make sure that our contract includes procedures and safeguards we all need to defend ourselves if and when that time comes.
VA Position: At the negotiation table, VA Management is declaring certain subjects to be “non-negotiable” and is still pushing back on this article. Some examples are:
- Management will not agree to provide workers with a chance to improve through performance improvement plans (or PIPs) before issuing discipline. Despite chronic staffing shortages, VA wants to eliminate this requirement from our contract and make it easier to fire workers.
- Management wants to be able to discipline employees for conduct outside of the workplace without showing how those actions negatively impact your ability to do their job or the mission of the VA.
NVAC Response: The vast majority of employees pass PIPs and improve performance when given the chance. This makes the VA a more fair place to work. NVAC will keep fighting to strengthen Article 14 and hold management accountable to protect your right to a fair disciplinary process. NVAC will take whatever legal action is necessary to overcome the VA’s misguided attempts to remove subjects from the bargaining table.
Article 16 (Employee Recognition and Awards)
Background: Hard work should be recognized and rewarded regardless of your position at the VA and regardless of gender, race, or age. This article details how VA employees may be granted awards or incentives based on exceptional service to the VA and its mission.
VA Position: Management continued to insist that we could not negotiate over awards for Title 38 employees (like nurses and physicians), and they need maximum flexibility to say who gets an award and the amount of that award. VA also claims that awards are distributed fairly, but data from 2015-2022 told a different story:
- In the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), AFGE NVAC represents 76% of workers. Despite record-breaking years with an unprecedented number of claims being successfully processed, the data shows that only HALF of the awards went to frontline VBA workers and that half went to managers…who do not process any claims…
- In the National Cemetery Administration (NCA), AFGE represents 55% of the workforce and those employees only received 27% of the awards since 2015! You might be asking yourself what that means for managers? Nearly 60% of all awards went to managers in NCA since 2015.
Ultimately, we learned frontline workers represented by AFGE are simply not receiving a fair share of VA awards.
NVAC Response: Our objective is to make sure the VA uses its awards program to fairly and consistently recognize the positive contributions of employees who deliver excellent service to veterans and beneficiaries. We will continue to fight for the rights of all workers, including our Title 38 brothers and sisters. To hold the VA accountable on Article 16, we must have greater transparency and accountability on awards.
Article 46 (Local Supplement)
Background: A small number of VA facilities have local contracts with AFGE called “supplemental agreements” that address important issues affecting your day-to-day work life at the VA such as how parking spaces are assigned, how seniority is defined for purposes of leave, and the working relationship between labor and management officials to implement policies of our Master Agreement.
VA Position: During our latest negotiation session, VA managers made it clear that they want to eliminate every single one of these contracts and let HR staff in D.C. decide how your facility does business.
NVAC Response: When asked at the table, VA managers could not articulate a single reason why eliminating these local contracts would improve the mission of the VA. We know these local supplemental agreements provide consistency and promote fairness at our workplaces–that’s why we will continue to fight to preserve the rights and benefits that the agreements provide.