AfGE, which represents more than 220,000 VA employees, said the department`s new performance board was at odds with the collective agreement it had already signed with the agency in 2011. Indeed, the Accountability Act finds that its provisions « succeed any collective agreement to the extent that such an agreement is incompatible with the new law. » VA management and AFGE began negotiations in May 2019 for a new collective agreement, but the Agency twice declared a deadlock in October and December of that year. On December 19, 2019, the VA asked the Federal Services Impasse Panel to intervene, a situation that has been going on ever since. The AfGE is also ready to bring this fight to the negotiating table. VA had informed AFGE in December of its intention to reopen and renegotiate its current collective agreement. Both sides were currently discussing the rules of the game, McQuiston said. The latest VBA guidelines do not mention any performance improvement plans. And according to the memo, the Agency will allow employees to address performance issues for up to four or two months – less time than the 90-day PIGs described in the AFGE agreement, PIPs should give staff « an appropriate opportunity of at least 90 calendar days » to address specific performance issues identified, according to the agreement. During this period, employees and their superiors should maintain constant communication. AFGE`s main agreement with VA explains how both parties have agreed to measure staff performance and to ask workers to meet these standards. 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.
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. « The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act explicitly states that proceedings involving withdrawals, downgrades or suspensions of more than 15 working days will succeed all collective agreements that are inconsistent with the procedures outlined in the new law, » said ministry spokesman Curt Cashour, when asked about discrepancies between VA`s current practice and the AFGE`s executive contract. 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. The union and the VA will appear before an arbitrator at a hearing in April to try to resolve disputes over the interpretation of the law. 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.