WASHINGTON – Today, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, (AFGE), Local 940, representing employees at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Regional Office in Philadelphia, PA, demanded that the VBA authorize administrative leave for all employees who are still reporting for work due to not being telework ready. This demand follows the recent announcement that two employees at the Philadelphia facility tested positive for COVID-19.
“It is appalling that VBA management still expects employees to come into the facility after there were two confirmed coronavirus cases. These employees were still walking around the facility less than two weeks ago,” said Jim Rihel, AFGE Local 940 President. “Since the announcement of the positive COVID-19 cases, the anxiety levels of already nervous employees have been through the roof.”
Initially, VBA management ordered telework for all non-essential employees and then, less than 48 hours later, employees who were lacking the necessary technology to telework were deemed “essential” and were ordered back into the office. The regional office is also lacking personal protective equipment for front-line employees, although the Acting Director recently notified employees the VBA is attempting to obtain gloves.
“This is nothing but a ruse to avoid granting these employees administrative leave. Until the VBA can provide these employees with the technology needed to telework, they must authorize administrative leave,” Rihel added. “The physical and mental health of these employees – who are tasked with providing critical services to veterans – should be the number one priority. How can management expect employees to come into a facility and do their best when they do not feel safe?”
For the latest news and information about the coronavirus, visit www.afge.org/coronavirus.