On Thursday, October 25, the membership of NTEU Chapter 293 voted almost unanimously to ratify a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The final vote result, which was certified by NTEU Counsel Michael Piacsek, was 99.8% in favor of the new contract. Chapter 293's leadership appreciates this strong showing of support from NTEU members across the country. The contract will now go to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox for agency head review. He will have thirty days to decide whether to execute the final ratified agreement. It is anticipated that he will do so, especially given the strong support for this contract among SEC employees in every office in the nation.
It has been more than two years since the SEC announced its plan to reopen the national agreement. From the beginning, NTEU’s negotiating team, comprised of Greg Gilman, Veronica Lewis, Katie Nix, Dean Suehiro and Netta Williams, and NTEU negotiators Jurmell James and Kevin Fagan, remained focused upon retaining and improving the benefits we had already established in our first contract with the agency.
After his CBA presentation prior to Thursday’s vote, Chapter 293 President Greg Gilman noted, “I hope that SEC employees will enjoy the improvements in this new contract. We intend to continue our work to make the agency one of the best places to work in the federal government.”
Currently, there is a difficult bargaining environment across the federal government. Many agencies are operating under the direction of appointees who have demonstrated a lack of respect for federal employees and the work that we do. NTEU is frequently facing management teams that come to the table with the express goals of eliminating rights and benefits, reducing the voice of federal employees, and diminishing the ability of the union to serve as an effective representative of employees. Furthermore, when negotiations reach an impasse, the union faces a Federal Service Impasses Panel that is comprised of political appointees who are often hostile to federal employees and side with management on numerous issues.
This was the situation facing Chapter 293's negotiating team over the course of the bargaining process, but this team never lost sight of the union’s original goals. Their perseverance has resulted in an agreement with new workplace rights and expanded benefits that make the SEC more employee-friendly.
There are improved rights and benefits for different categories of employees in the SEC’s workforce. “We worked real hard to get something for everyone at the SEC,” team member Veronica Lewis recently remarked. Highlights of the new NTEU-SEC contract include:
- A new expanded telework program permitting employees to work from home for three, four, and, in some cases, five days per week;
- A new 4/10 compressed work schedule (in addition to the 5-4/9 schedule) that will permit employees to work four ten-hour days and take off one day per week;
- A new Leave Sharing Program that will allow enrolled employees suffering a medical emergency to use annual leave that has been donated to a special “leave bank” by their colleagues;
- A casual clothing policy for travel outside the office when conducting inspections, exams, testimony or meetings;
- An upward mobility provision with five slots for employees in grades 7 and below;
- Retention of the Student Loan Repayment Program in its current form; and
- Numerous procedural improvements.
It is also important to note that, in addition to these improvements, your union team also fought hard to keep a number of misguided management proposals out of the new contract. Indeed, while the union placed nine articles on the table at the commencement of the negotiations, with specific goals for targeted improvements in mind, SEC management placed almost thirty articles on the table, many of which contained ill-advised modifications that the union was able to prevent. The blocked proposals included:
- Creation of a management right to remove employees from a 5-4/9 work schedule at any time, for any reason;
- A proposal to take away the right to grieve merit pay determinations;
- A major reduction of the amount of official time available to union stewards to address employee workplace issues and represent you;
- A new requirement for employees who are required to request advance sick leave to deal with a serious illness to take a minimum of five consecutive sick days;
- A more restrictive attire policy;
- A reduction in the amount of time for the union to make proposals when bargaining; and
- A proposal to lengthen the time-in-grade requirement for a career ladder promotion from one year to two years.