The current collective agreement between AFGE and the VA has been in place since 2011 and the union and the agency must now begin negotiations on the proposed new contract. The Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), made up of 10 presidents appointed to resolve deadlocks in agency union negotiations, significantly changed the agreement in its November 5 ruling, allegedly to bring the labor contract into compliance with several executive orders of the Trump administration, which brings in federal staff. However, union officials say the proposed agreement deprives us of important safeguards offered under the current agreement, which covers about 250,000 Agency workers. The body removed several articles from the agreement and removed others, said Ibidun Roberts, who represents NVAC. According to a VA press release, the new collective agreement would reduce the official use of time in the agency from about 1 million hours per year to 10,000 hours of official time, a 99 percent reduction. Under the Trump administration, the VA has been aggressive in trying to reduce the official time and decided in November 2018 that some of the authority`s medical staff should not use that time. This rule was brought to court by AFGE shortly after its introduction. The Department of Veterans Affairs proposed a new collective agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees on May 2, one that agency officials say will improve medical care, customer service and employee responsibility. “It`s time to reset Va`s approach to labour management relationships.
The reluctance to challenge the status quo has led to the current agreement, which has many benefits that favour the union, not the veterans we are supposed to serve,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the press release. In May 2018, President Donald Trump issued three executive orders that changed the collective treatment and bargaining of federal employees, implying that union representatives spend at least 75% of their time on acting rather than on official time.