The AFGE bargaining team and SSA management have been on the ropes the past few months trying to hammer out a new contract for the more than 50,000 employees represented in the bargaining unit.
AFGE is bargaining in good faith, however, the agency has not changed its initial position –to decrease employee benefits, increase management’s power and weaken the union.
The following are a few of the proposals that have been on the table:
— The union proposed more employee involvement in workplace decisions. If employees are empowered, they will have more buy-in. The agency flat out opposed this.
— The agency wants to eliminate all union office space as well as enact a radical reduction in official time.
— SSA refuses to restore joint union-management health and safety inspections. Management prefers unilateral inspections where they write the reports and findings and the employees have no input. These reports rarely list any problems yet some offices continue to be unsafe.
— The agency wants to ban union representatives who are not current agency employees from entering field offices and other SSA sites. This would prevent employees from getting the assistance they need when they need it the most.
— AFGE wants to restore fairness to the grievance and arbitration process while management wants to make it more difficult for employees and their AFGE representatives. Short time frames and restrictive rules would keep many employees from getting their due process. The agency proposes to add burdensome procedures and increase litigation costs which would be detrimental to employees.
— Management wants more control over employee leave, including more authority to severely limit flextime, telework and credit hour use.
— Several years ago, AFGE and SSA negotiated an agreement on domestic violence. The union wants that agreement put into the next contract, but management hasn’t acted on that proposal either.
— An Obama administration Executive Order raised transit subsidies for federal workers to $215 a month as an effort to ease commutes and have a more “green” workforce by encouraging the use of public transportation. However, SSA wants to freeze transit subsides at $60 a month, defying President Obama’s Executive Order.
— SSA management wants the right to fire a probationary employee one minute before that person’s shift ends – with no other warning given to the employee or the union. Currently probationary employees get a minimum of a two week notice. Probationary employees also would lose their right to union representation, and the union would no longer be told when SSA appoints or hires temporary employees, preventing them from receiving information from AFGE concerning their rights.
— AFGE is seeking to expand the definition of serious communicable diseases so if a member gets sick while interviewing a member of the public, they would have the right to medical screening on agency time. Agency officials oppose this proposal.
— Annual leave requests for full weeks and for days around holidays (when not all requests can be honored), have been discussed. Responding to the interests of its members, AFGE proposed rotating leave rosters for most SSA components with seniority-based approval for other components, but the agency rejected that idea without any explanation.
The agency has been unwilling to move on many points and is trying to take away AFGE’s representation and the voice of its employees. AFGE will not let that happen and will not back down. There is strength in numbers. The union needs YOU to help us fight this battle.