Arbitrator: VA wrongfully fired workers
- By Sherkiya Wedgeworth
- Sep 04, 2018
An independent arbitrator has ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs violated the terms of a union contract when it began firing employees based on provisions in the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
The bill—which allows the VA to fire problem employees and essentially eliminates the standard performance improvement period (PIP) for certain VA employees—was signed into in law June of last year.
However, the American Federation of Government Employees, filed a grievance in September of 2017, contending that the law contradicted the collective bargaining agreement it had signed with the agency in 2011.
Furthermore, AFGE reported that while the VA was firing, suspending and demoting employees without receiving a formal PIP, other employees had their standards for performance change with little or no explanation and were given no recourse to improve.
“We came to work at the VA because we believe in the mission of caring for the men and women who served this country,” AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma L. Lee, said in a news release, adding, “But instead of getting support for our work, we’ve been dealing with managers moving the goalposts and using these bogus standards to fire dedicated public servants. It’s disgraceful.”
The decision, once finalized, means that many of those employees fired over the last year will get their jobs back, and the agency will have to follow the 2011 contract with AFGE and the PIPs will be restored.
“As the president and his administration continue their heinous anti-worker attacks on unions and federal workers, it’s great to see momentum swinging in our direction,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr., said about the decision.
The news release also states: "Veterans’ care or access to it is not improved by firing rank-and-file workers, and now, thanks to this ruling, our members can get back to work making the VA the best health care provider in the country."