(WASHINGTON) – After 27 months of negotiations, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the Social Security Administration have reached a conceptual agreement for the terms of the new national contract. “It’s been a long road but we fought hard and proudly won improvements in benefits and working conditions for the employees of the Social Security Administration,” stated AFGE National President John Gage, who worked as a disability examiner for the Social Security Administration and was a seminal player in reaching the deal.
Negotiations between AFGE and SSA have been ongoing, two weeks every month, since December 2009. AFGE referred the bargaining to the Federal Service Impasses Panel in September 2011, in reaction to the lack of progress in national contract negotiations. The language for the new contract is conceptual and will be finalized by both AFGE and SSA management, then sent out for ratification by AFGE locals. Once the contract is ratified by AFGE and SSA, it will be valid for four years.
“We made improvements in eye care and travel benefits, strengthened employee rights in the workplace and allowed for the union to have broader ability to represent employees in meetings with SSA management,” explained AFGE Lead Negotiator Witold Skwierczynski. “I want to thank our negotiators, and the SSA negotiators, for the hard work, dedication and countless hours away from family it took to get to this point.”
Some of the more key articles of the contract, such as merit promotions, work at home and appraisals are still in the process of being hammered out and must be incorporated into the contract no later than June 2012, according the terms of the conceptual agreement. “We look forward to getting this contract ratified and improving the working conditions of our members throughout the Social Security Administration,” concluded Skwierczynski.