(WASHINGTON) - The American Federation of Government Employees’ National Homeland Security Council has won a last-minute victory to prevent the elimination of some 800 jobs at the Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau of the Department of Homeland Security. Much to AFGE’s satisfaction, the Office of Personnel Management last week granted CIS the authority to extend through January term employees who have met or exceeded their four-year term limit.
AFGE worked closely with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and other U.S. senators to write a letter seeking an extension for these employees, whose term has expired. The union also lobbied top CIS officials to ensure that the term employees were kept on the job.
“The affected employees were hired more than four years ago to bring the immigration applications backlog down, a job that has not yet been finished,” AFGE National President John Gage said.
“In addition, these AFGE members are the people who will be responsible for implementing many of the changes that will come as part of immigration reform,” he added. “Losing these employees and their experience would result in an overwhelming workload for permanent employees and could mean huge administrative problems later.”
Given that the current administration opposed an extension of these term employees, and did not include funding in the FY06 budget, “saving these jobs was a long shot battle from the beginning,” Gage said. “But we have won the first battle, so our next step will be to ensure that funding is provided to ensure that all of these jobs will be made permanent.”
AFGE recently had another DHS-related victory when the agency decided not to appeal a court decision that blocked the labor relations portion of its personnel system. AFGE and four other unions had challenged the personnel system on the basis that it was unconstitutional, among other issues. AFGE, the largest federal union in the coalition, also represents the largest constituency of Department Homeland Security employees across the nation.