AFGE filed with FSIP on June 3, arguing that the Department of Veterans Affairs had proposed significant changes to its collective agreement with the union and then refused to negotiate in good faith with AFGE representatives for counter-proposals substantially similar to those of the current agreement. Some of the bargaining positions set by the VA stem from the requirements set out by three executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in May 2018: reduce the official time for union representatives, remove union representatives from agency offices and renegotiate collective agreements to meet those priorities. Collective bargaining between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Federation of Government Employees has stalled for more than a year, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed parts of the country and increased workload and risk to health care professionals, has only exacerbated differences between management and unions over the best administration of the confederation. Tom Temin: And the executive orders of the Trump administration cover a lot of territories, and what can we reasonably expect from an answer, would you want to see in an agreement in terms of official time and all the other provisions? Ibidun Roberts: Well, the current agreement is what we call rushed, once the VA has opened it, our language in the Treaty says that the provisions will continue until we reach a new agreement. So that`s where we`re with the current agreement, it`s continuing until we get to a new one. So we negotiated with the VA for half a month, and the VA requested the services of the Federal Service Impasses Panel, which is the authority of the federal government to break the deadlock. Like us government employees, we cannot go on strike, someone has to break the deadlock, and that is what this agency is doing. VA asked for your help. They asked us to defend our proposals in an opinion that had to be issued on June 3. Then we had the opportunity to refute the other`s arguments, and it was just July 5.
For now, the council is arguing. — we are only waiting for a decision from them. However, a VA spokesperson told the Federal Times that the changes they want to implement are aimed at improving care: “Whether by condemning the MISSION Act or denouncing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, AFGE has fought hard for the status quo and opposed attempts to improve VA`s work for veterans and their families.