“It`s time to restart VA`s approach to the relationship between labour relations and management. A reluctance to challenge the status quo has led to the current agreement, which has many benefits that favor the union and not the veterans we are supposed to serve,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the statement. The new agreement would also strengthen frontline supervisors, streamline the recruitment and training process and ensure that the collective agreement does not intervene in the Agency`s modernization legislation, according to the VA press release. The current collective agreement between AFGE and VA has existed since 2011 and the union and agency must now begin negotiations on the new contract proposal. The Department of Veterans Affairs on May 2 struck a new collective agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees, which Agency officials say will improve medical care, customer service and employee accountability. However, union representatives say the proposed agreement presents substantial protection measures offered under the current agreement, which covers around 250,000 workers within the Agency. According to a VA press release, the new collective agreement would reduce the agency`s official time use from about 1 million hours of work per year to 10,000 hours of official time, a 99 percent reduction. In May 2018, President Donald Trump passed three implementing regulations changing the salary and collective bargaining of federal employees, which required union representatives to devote at least 75 percent of their time to agency work and not to the official time. Key elements of these orders were overturned by a district judge in August of the same year, but the administration appealed the decision. According to the official deadlines of 2016 – the most recent published by the Office of Personnel Management – the official time usage by the VA is calculated at approximately 3.53 hours per bargaining unit employee per year. “Given that VA faces thousands of job vacancies, these proposals could repatriate more than a million hours of work per year to our workforce – a significant influx of resources that would almost immediately make a difference for Veterans and the staff who care for them.
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