November 19, 2009
Emily Ryan
(202) 639-6421

TSA Union: Agency Pay Ratings continue to be Cause for Concern

(WASHINGTON)-On behalf of approximately 38,000 Transportation Security Officers, the American Federation of Government Employees questioned how TSA came up with its 2009 performance levels and why the agency isn't focused instead on fixing standing problems with its pay system. In response to TSA's Performance Accountability & Standards System (PASS) 2009 Final Rating Thresholds & Payout Information, AFGE National President John Gage today issued the following statement:

“TSA’s 2009 PASS ratings raise more questions than provides answers. The first of which is: why did TSA, with no warning or explanation, increase the point range needed to obtain a rating level from that of last year? This arbitrary increase means that some TSOs will have to achieve a higher score than before just to maintain the same rating.

It is illogical to increase the point range when TSA has struggled with several evaluation components that constitute it, including training and testing. Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley even admitted to flaws in PASS, stating that it ‘distracted the workforce from its primary mission with its confusing procedures and burdensome administrative and testing requirements.’ Unfortunately, that remains true.

Furthermore, the decision to increase the point range will prevent some TSOs from receiving the larger increases to base salary and one-time lump sum PASS performance bonuses than in previous years.

Because lump sum bonuses are not included in pensions, TSOs see thousands of dollars diverted from, and a devaluation of their pension. Conversely, salary increases under the GS System—which AFGE believes TSOs should be brought under—become part of the base pay on which retirement pay is calculated.

Additionally, the ratings are largely based on the subjective perceptions of TSA managers, some of whom even evaluate TSOs they do not work with. And because the point spread between the various levels is so close, managers could easily manipulate an employee’s score by a point or two to move them up or down a level. Moreover, TSOs report that TSA management is poorly trained in administering PASS evaluations. A TSO’s basic compensation and standard of living should not be subject to the whims of individual managers.

Many of these issues could easily have been avoided by a collective bargaining agreement. AFGE would have negotiated with TSA to ensure that the training and testing reflected what TSOS actually do every day on the job, and that there was a fair opportunity for TSOs to receive the appropriate training prior to taking the tests. A bargaining agreement would ensure that the evaluation process was fair and equitable and that TSOs would be able to grieve unfair individual evaluations before a neutral third party, a right that TSOs currently do not have.

There is no question that TSOs must be capable of performing their duties as assigned, but we take issue with a flawed performance system that is subject to favoritism, nepotism and unregulated supervisor discretion."

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