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. 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 three-year interim agreement applies to nearly 84,000 federal public servants represented and not represented in the Programs and Administrative Services (PA) group. The interim agreement would increase the economy and the group overall by 6.64 per cent over three years until July 2021, the smallest increase recorded last year, in line with the current economic environment. New provisions on care leave, extending parental leave and up to 10 days of domestic violence leave are also included in the interim agreement. «It`s all connected. They want to undermine the rights of veterans and erode workers` rights. And all of this leads to more unfair care, more unfair service decisions, and a decline in health care. But some of the negotiating positions do not come directly from the Trump administration`s directives, although they have been used in collective bargaining between several agencies.
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. Unsurprisingly, AFGE took the same approach by refusing to accept the improvement of the common sense of its collective agreement. VA`s proposals on collective bargaining are designed to ensure that Veterans are at the forefront of everything we do, and we look forward to working with AFGE to achieve this goal. According to Weidman, union communication is essential to ensure the health and safety of the veterans they serve, because AFGE has often reported to its organization problems or changes in the system that affect the Veterans they represent: like the Phoenix Compensation Agreement jointly developed by the federal government and other negotiators in 2019, there are measures under this agreement to help those who have had lost financial costs and lost investment income and who have encountered personal and financial investment difficulties. The agreement also includes general compensation for current and former PSAC employees. All employees and managers are reminded to correctly complete overtime forms and transfer them to compensation units in a timely manner. Overtime forms should be processed in a timely manner in PeopleSoft under specific collective agreements. The terms of employment and related collective agreements require that duly authorized overtime be compensated by cash and/or equivalent leave. Please note that this new rate change applies to all employees who currently pay Union of Veterans` Affairs Component dues and who are covered by a collective agreement between the Board of Directors of the Secretariat of Canada and the PSAC.
At the same time, the government reached a preliminary agreement with PSAC to compensate employees for damage caused by the Phoenix compensation system and the late implementation of the 2014 collective agreements.