March 26, 2008
Emily Ryan
(202) 639-6421

Under AFGE Pressure, TSA Revamps Pay-for-Performance System

(WASHINGTON)—Yielding to pressure from the American Federation of Government Employees and Transportation Security Officers, TSA Administrator Kip Hawley this week made several changes to the agency’s controversial Performance and Accountability Standards System (PASS), acknowledging many serious flaws that long have been pointed out by AFGE.

In a March 25 email to TSA employees, Hawley admitted that PASS has become “far too complicated” and has “distracted the workforce from its primary mission with its confusing procedures and burdensome administrative and testing requirements.” As a result, TSA is making several changes to the pay system effective April 1, including:

  • No more sign-in for Fitness for Duty

  • No more Standard Operating Procedures tests in 2008

  • Improved image tests and

  • Fewer competency and proficiency requirements.

“These changes confirm AFGE’s unease with PASS as an inherently flawed and subjective system that lacks fairness and credibility,” AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth said. “AFGE has publicly challenged TSA and its pay system for years and is glad that TSA is acting on our concerns. That being said, AFGE remains wary about many parts of the PASS structure and will continue to push for the entire system to be replaced by a more rational one.”

Reduction in required training, for example, is not consistent with statutory requirements TSA is supposed to meet. TSOs have reported that they can’t complete training requirements because of understaffing at the airports. AFGE believes Congress should take a more assertive role by insisting that TSA hire enough workers to get the job done, and compelling TSA management to ensure the training requirements are adhered to.

Additionally, TSOs still cannot appeal an unfair PASS evaluation to an objective third party and PASS still lacks many of the features both the Government Accountability Office and the Merit Systems Protection Board recommend for fair pay-for-performance systems. Furthermore, there remains an arbitrary assignment of collateral duties by management regarding which TSOs get such duties. Taking on these extra assignments can raise a TSO’s final PASS score.

This is not the first time that AFGE has influenced TSA’s management of its PASS system. In October 2007, in response to AFGE’s call for more pay and a return to the GS system, TSA also announced several changes to PASS. Among those changes were five rating levels instead of four, supervisors would be required to rate their subordinates twice a year as opposed to four times, and new hires would have at least six months to complete PASS requirements, as opposed to being tested almost immediately after receiving initial certification.

“We can see the incremental movement towards a saner approach to the issue of employee compensation at TSA,” said AFGE National Organizer Bill Lyons. “However, these baby steps serve only to tinker around the edges of the real problems within TSA. Without a sound labor-management relationship, TSA management is destined to continue making these avoidable missteps.”

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