Tentative Agreement is a Breakthrough in Longstanding Negotiations
According to an article from Government Executive, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) announced that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a new collective bargaining agreement. This development potentially brings an end to years of contentious negotiations between the union and the VA.
Modernizing the Hiring Process
The tentative agreement allows the VA to implement a plan to streamline the hiring process for Title 5 employees across the department while preserving the provisions of the 2011 contract. Thomas Dargon, a supervisory attorney for AFGE, said, “What we’ve agreed to here is a plan to modernize and streamline some of the hiring processes for Title 5 employees with the hope it will improve the speed to hire and staff faster and more efficiently.” The union and VA management hope that the modernized hiring process will help fill vacancies more quickly and efficiently.
Addressing Employee Concerns
The deal also includes the reinstatement of official time for Title 38 medical professionals, the reestablishment of labor-management councils, and the creation of a task force to address employee burnout. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement, “This tentative agreement is a great step forward that will help us hire, support, retain and onboard VA’s great public servants—which, in turn, will help us better serve our nation’s veterans.”
Next Steps in the Process
The tentative agreement must still be ratified by union members, which AFGE said will take place over the next 60 days. If ratified, the deal will go through the agency head review process and then be signed by both parties.
AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma Lee expressed optimism about the agreement, saying, “For years our union has highlighted the danger of leaving tens of thousands of health care positions vacant, and we are hopeful this new agreement will help address this issue that is critical to both veterans and the VA workforce.”