AFGE, VA Prepare to Renegotiate New Contract
September 20, 2021
Categories: VA, The Insider
AFGE’s National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs are getting ready to renegotiate a new contract following a historic July 20 settlement in which the VA agreed to restore workplace rights and overturn anti-worker policies implemented by the Trump administration during the past four years.
The Council and the VA are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on January 31, 2022. The union is doing a survey to ask members what’s important to them and what they want to see in the next contract. We are urging VA members to complete it here.
The July 20 settlement contains ground rules that outline the parameters for the upcoming negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement, which will shape the relationship between VA workers and management for years to come.
Under this settlement, the VA and NVAC have agreed to restart negotiations with a “limited reopener,” which will only include 12 contract articles. Each side selected 6 articles to reopen and renegotiate from the 2011 Master Agreement. That means 55 other articles from the 2011 Master Agreement will be “rolled over” in the next contract, plus the Preamble and Duration of Agreement provisions.
Both parties have also agreed to disregard previous bargaining history from 2017-21, including proposals, grievances, tentative agreements, as well as last November’s decision by the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which would have made anti-worker changes to the 2011 Master Agreement.
This settlement resolved more than 10 of AFGE NVAC’s national grievances alleging bad faith bargaining on the part of the VA, several of which were sustained in arbitration.
Here’s a quick look at key parts of the contract that will be on the table in upcoming negotiations with the VA. The party that selected to reopen the article is noted in parenthesis below as (VA) or (NVAC).
- (NVAC) Article 12 - Details and Temporary Promotions governs how workers are selected for temporary reassignment or promotion, as well as requirements for notifying local unions of those opportunities.
- (NVAC) Article 16 - Employee Awards and Recognition lays out how and why VA employees may be granted awards or incentives based on their service to the VA and its mission.
- (VA) Article 23 - Merit Promotion ensures the VA promotions are based on performance and qualifications and requires the VA to notify and consider qualified internal candidates for promotions.
- (NVAC) Article 39 - Upward Mobility promotes specialized training and cross-training to expand upward mobility within the VA workforce.
- (VA) Article 14 - Discipline & Adverse Action provides due process rights and describes the procedures the VA must use when disciplining workers, including making workers aware of their rights to union representation.
- (VA) Article 27 - Performance Appraisal lays out protections for employees contained in formal appraisal process whereby supervisors must meet with workers and explain expectations when evaluating worker performance.
- (NVAC) Article 29 - Safety, Health, and Environment solidifies workers’ rights to a safe, healthy work environment, while establishing safety standards and training requirements the VA must observe.
- (NVAC) Article 66 - Technology for Administering, Tracking, and Measuring VBA Work requires VA and AFGE-NVAC to review technology issues on an annual basis, while laying out procedures by which VBA workers may challenge inaccurate electronic records of their work.
- (VA) Article 46 - Local Supplement allows for local unions and local VA facilities to negotiate supplemental agreements that address the unique circumstances impacting the workforce.
- (VA) Article 47 - Mid-Term Bargaining governs the manner in which AFGE-NVAC and local unions participate in negotiations with the VA during the life of the contract, particularly to address changes in working conditions, policies, and other matters.
- (NVAC) Article 22 – Investigations describes the due process and representation rights of workers who become a subject or witness in an investigation, while laying out training requirements for investigators.
- (VA) Article 48 - Official Time provides union officials with representational time during which they can defend VA workers in safety meetings, investigations, grievances, hearings, and other matters.