On May 2nd, the Veterans Affairs Department announced a proposal to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with its federal employee union. The V.A.’s union is the largest federal employee union in the United States. However, the announcement signals that the V.A. will be making a concentrated effort to severely restrict the use of official time.
According to V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie, the new proposal would allow the department to focus its efforts on caring for veterans. In an opinion piece published in InsideSources.com, Wilkie wrote:
“These steps aren’t anti-union, they’re pro-veteran. We’re not asking the union to give up any of its legal rights, we just want to reclaim the rights Congress gave to the V.A. to manage this department in a way that prioritizes veteran care.”
Yet, these steps are about as anti-union as I have seen in the last 25 years of working with the federal sector. They are clearly an attempt to destroy federal labor unions and to put a practical end to a Union’s ability to function. If the final contract ends up looking like this proposal in any shape or form it would be like sending a warrior into battle without a weapon.
My opinion is shared by officials with AFGE who called the proposal a sham and say it is intended to punish workers. AFGE National President J. David Cox said, “Secretary Wilkie is making a mockery of the collective bargaining process to do the bidding of President Trump. This is all part of the Trump administration’s strategy to force the V.A. to fail, thereby paving the road to privatization.”
AFGE said the union received the department’s 331-page proposal just before the V.A. published its statement. Proposed cuts in the workplace included articles on:
- Official time
- Child care programs
- Whistleblower protections
The proposal would change the way employees can request to work remotely and would require employees with telework agreements to come to their physical duty stations four days a week. The department is also requesting a cap on the use of official time by union employees at 5% of their duty hours. This is way under the 25% cap mandated by President Trump’s executive order.
To find out more about how these proposed changes will impact V.A. employees, click here.
Veterans Affairs Attorneys Serving Houston
Our legal team at Pines Federal is here to help V.A. doctors and nurses defend their rights and protect their interests. We have more than 20 years of experience, and we can help you navigate the unique laws and regulations that will apply to your V.A. case. In addition to representing V.A. employees, we also provide in-house counsel to numerous federal AFGE local V.A. and VARO Unions. Let us get to work for you today.