In keeping with VA Secretary Robert McDonald’s commitment to AFGE and its National VA Council to reverse harmful downgrades of medical center employees who interface with patients, the Department ordered top leadership to delay grade reductions for all 17 targeted positions covering nearly 21,000 lower wage employees.
McDonald’s Chief of Staff Jose Riojas stated in his September 24th memo extending the stay that no downgrades of targeted positions would be conducted for at least another 15 months, to allow completion of a national classification review.
VA leadership was also given the authority to reverse recent hiring practices that brought in new employees at significantly lower salaries, forcing them to work alongside current employees performing the same jobs involving direct services to veterans. Hiring managers can now elect to post new jobs at the same grade as incumbents in positions on the target list.
“We are extremely encouraged by Secretary McDonald’s prompt action to address AFGE’s concerns about the devastating downgrades of VA health care personnel, including a great many service-connected disabled veterans who have devoted their careers to the nation’s stellar health care system for our wounded warriors,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “We believe this is clear evidence of the new Secretary’s commitment to more openness throughout the Department, which will lead to improvements in veterans’ services as well as workplace morale.”
National VA Council President Alma Lee urged managers to heed the Secretary’s directive to value front line employees serving the VA customer:
“Management now has the authority and the mandate to suspend the devastating downgrades that have already left large numbers of workers with smaller paychecks to feed their families and less job security. We will carefully monitor how this plays out at every facility so that the hardworking employees we represent get the fair deal that Secretary McDonald wants them to have.”