AFGE’s National VA Council and the Department of Veterans Affairs have reached a tentative agreement that defends critical protections for VA workers while modernizing the hiring process.
The tentative agreement includes a revised version of Article 23 (Title 5 Merit Promotion) and a rollover of the remainder of our 2011 Master Agreement, the largest union contract in the federal government. With the revised Article 23, we hope these improvements will help address the chronic staffing shortages that NVAC members have been sounding the alarm on for decades.
This agreement allows us to save existing health and safety protections, disciplinary procedures, performance plans, investigation rights, official time for union reps, bargaining rights, fair overtime procedures, transparent telework rights, upward mobility, and career advancement. The negotiating team also fought hard to secure revisions to Article 23 that will modernize and improve the VA’s hiring procedures for the benefit of VA workers and the veterans we serve.
“Together, with the help of thousands of members, we fought through years of bad-faith bargaining under the Trump Administration, held over 50 local rallies, gathered more than 5,700 petition signatures, organized countless #RedforFeds Wednesdays, and withstood a barrage of attacks to weaken worker protections from the VA – and now we’re proud to announce that NVAC has reached a tentative agreement with VA that delivers the strong union contract we’ve all been fighting for,” said NVAC President Alma Lee.
For decades, our union has sounded the alarm over the VA’s chronic staffing shortages, and NVAC members across the country have spoken up about the impact these shortages have on our veterans and employees. We have repeatedly implored the VA to work with us to improve the hiring process so that the VA can deliver the best health care and services to our nation’s veterans. For too many years, the VA has continued to lose its most talented workers to the private sector.
“During recent discussions between the negotiating team and VA leaders, including Secretary McDonough, we all agreed that fully staffing the VA is our number one priority. NVAC members know better than anyone how insufficient staffing leads to burnout, high turnover, morale issues, access/backlog problems for veterans, unsafe working conditions, and more,” Lee added.
AFGE has been in a fight for a fair contract since 2017 when the VA first reopened the contract under the Trump administration, which engaged in bad faith bargaining and anti-worker behavior, prompting the council to file multiple grievances. In 2021, the council and the VA reached a global settlement, resolving pending litigation and outlining the parameters for the upcoming negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement.
The current round of negotiations began in March 2022. To our surprise, bad faith bargaining continued as the VA demanded that the council agreed to the agency’s anti-worker proposals, prompting the council to file grievances again. No tentative agreements had been reached for an entire year. In March 2023, an arbitrator agreed with the council, ruling that the VA had engaged in bad faith bargaining. The VA subsequently agreed to roll over the current contract with changes to Article 23 only.
Members are encouraged to vote YES on the tentative agreement
Chief negotiators from both sides signed the tentative agreement on April 6, 2023, the date that will kick-start the 60-day ratification process.
During this process, VA employees covered under this contract will vote to either ratify or reject the tentative agreement.
The council then notifies the VA of the ratification result by the end of 60 days. It will then go to the VA for agency head review. Once the VA Secretary approves, the 2023 Master Agreement becomes effective.
The council is urging VA employees to vote YES on the tentative agreement.