News Archive: 2015
WPC Seating Agreement Updated
December 29, 2015: Local Union and Management officials in Tucson successfully concluded negotiations on a new office seating agreement.
Improper Drug Test Challanged
December 3, 2015: In reaction to a grievance concerning HRPT-clearance employees improperly subjected to drug tests due to agency error, the two sides negogiated a mutually-acceptable settlement and path forward.
AWOL Charge Challenged
November 27, 2015: The Union filed a grievance on behalf of an NPC employee. The employee was absent for medical reasons (which were documented by the employee's physician), yet the Agency still docked the employee's pay, charging the time as AWOL.
Comprehensive Insurance Resource Available
November 10, 2015: NFFE 1998
Dues-paying members have access to the Consumers Checkbook website
during health insurance open season. The site rates over 200
health plans for federal employees.
Union members can sign in
their member number as the userid, and "healthplans" as the
Union members can sign in here, using their member number as the userid, and "healthplans" as the password.
Record Total Concludes FLSA Settlement
November 3, 2015: Local 1998 reached agreement with Passports Services on a 2009 grievance over sufferred and permitted overtime compelled with the agency. The Agency agreed to pay a total of 6.5 milliion dollars to resolve the grievance. The money will go towards reimbursing affected employees.
Agency Grants QSI's to Employees
October 29, 2015: Union meetings took place concerning a new Agency method of appealing errors that omitted key provisions of the version drafted by Arbitrator Strongin. The Union was initially denied the ability to provide background information when the Agency was promoting its version of the appeals panel. An settlement of FLRA case WA-CA-15-0237 acknowledged the right of Union officers to advise employees during such Agency meetings.
Congress Seeks Hiring Changes at State
October 28, 2015: Members of the House of Representatives proposed legislation which would require the Department of State achieve greater gender and ethnic diversity in hiring. The proposed FAIR Act would also mandate periodic reports to Congress on steps taken to improve.
Arbitrator Issues Split Ruling on Official Time
September 25, 2015: Arbitrator Timothy Brown issued a decision on an Agency grievance. He ruled that a NFFE 1998 Steward had inappropriately sent two representational emals during work time. Brown found the majority of Management's allegations to be without merit.
NFFE Protests Internal Controls Reprimand
September 21, 2015: The Union filed a grievance debating alleged internal controls infractions. Recognizing a potential conflict of interest, a Passport Specialist declined to adjudicate the passport application of an acquaintance, and so informed the colleague they passed the case to. Yet the employee was still disciplined because local Management was not notified in writing .
Union Replies to Agency Charges
September 3, 2015: Vice President James Lensen-Callas responded to two Agency grievances against the Union. One response concerned Agency claims the Union President wronged the Agency by being the official who responded to a grievance the Agency had addressed to him.
San Francisco ADR Produces Agreement
August 28, 2015: An Alternative Dispute Resolution agreement brought a dispute concerning employee breaks to a close. The Union had objected to the Agency unilerally outlawing employees attaching their break to the end of the lunch period.
Union Requests Fix on Former Peace Corps Retirement
August 9, 2015: Passport Management has pledged to investigate a possible error that causing ex-Peace Corps employees to be incorrectly charged a higher retirement contribution on each paycheck. Peace Corps work as of December 31, 2012 should serve as an exemption to the mandated higher retirement contributions.
Union and Management Bargain Names Procedures
July 24, 2015: A Union bargaining team led by Secretary-Treasurer Amanda Booher concluded bargaining with Management today. The agreement concerned 7 FAM Appendix C, dictating the rules by which name changes are adjudicated.
More Participation for Union in Meetings
July 22, 2015: Following an Unfair Labor Practice charge, the Agency agreed to settle the case rather than dispute its violation at hearing. Giving rise to the dispute was Connecticut Management's threats against Senior Steward Robert Speed for his informing his co-workers at a meeting of the Union's position that the Acqistion Review Panel implrementation constitued a violation (which was later borne out by a second settlement).
Employees Disciplined for Work Product
July 6, 2015: Passport Management implemented its second suspension without pay in recent weeks of a Passport Specialist at CPC. In both cases, the employees were making their best effort to correctly adjudicate passport applications, but were charged with failure to follow instructions.
NY Succesful in Response in Proposed Downgrade
June 25, 2015: Local Officers Andrew Woodford and George Vrotsos assisted an employee whom the Agency proposed to downgrade. Following responses from the Union and employee, the Agency decided not to go forward with the demotion.
Talks Conclude on Adjudication of Child Applications
June 11, 2015: Union and Management came to agreement on details, most notably on translation of foreign documents, in relation to the Agency's changes to 7 FAM 1350, concerning the adjudication of passport applications for minors
Agreement Reached on 2015 Internal Controls
June 10, 2015: The Union's negotiability appeal over several internal control requirements announced in late 2014 was mediated by the FLRA. Comproises on both sides resulted in a deal that alleviated the need for the appeal.
Cell Phone Ban Receives Washington Post Coverage
May 8, 2015: The Washington Post ran a second article on the Agency's plans to ban electronic devices within Agency space. NFFE 1998 opposes the ban for its damage to employee morale and its poor prospects for stopping future malfeasance.
San Juan Assignment Questions Answered
May 1, 2015: Following the temporary closure of the San Juan Passport Agency, the Agency made arrangements to temporarily assign the employees outside of Puerto Rico. In response to Union objections to lack of notification and bargaining, local Management stated San Juan employees would not be involuntarily detailed.
Impasse Panel Rules for Union on Security Clearances
April 28, 2015: The Union and Management sought resolution from the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP) on the question of security clearances. At odds was a mediator's language calling for the Agency to train and find positions for qualified employees who fail to obtain a secret clearance. The Union supported the mediator's language, as did FSIP.
Media Covers Passport Plan to Ban Cell Phones
April 24, 2015: The Agency's proposal to ban electronic devices within the workspace was the subject of an article in the Washington Post.
Agency Withdraws ULP Against Union
April 1, 2015: Advised that the FLRA would not find merit in its ULP charge against Union officers in the Law Enforcement Liaision section, the Agency chose to withdraw its bad-faith bargaining charge. Further illuminating the concept of "bad faith bargaing", Agency suddenly offered a settlement to the Union, apparently attempting to develop an excuse other than the FLRA's finding for its withdrawal.
Seattle Officers Update Leave Agreement
March 27, 2015: Local Union and Management representatives agreed to edits to the local Leave Policy, adding "personal days" that are categorized separately from the office limits for annual leave usage.
Split Decision Issued on San Juan Office Layout
March 27, 2015: An arbitrator ruled for both sides on the San Juan Office Move. Roger Abrams sided with the Union on the question of whether the issue was arbitrable, but determined that the absence of office layout negotiations did not demonstrate bad-faith bargaining by Management.
Local Rolls Out Electronic Newsletter
March 24, 2015: Local 1998 debuted its new electronic newsletter, E Pluribus Unum. It contains stories on several Local 1998 arbitration victories and new Vice President, James Lensen-Callas.
Arbitrator Returns Passport Specialist to Work
March 3, 2015: Arbitrator Norman Brand ordered that Passport Services return a Passport Specialist to work, with back pay for the time since dismissal. The Agency had fired the employee from the San Francisco Passport Agency for poor performance. The late Phil Snodgrass successfully argued at arbitration that the Passport Services performance system was flawed, as was the required standard for passing a "Knowledge of Adjudication" PIP.
FEEA College Scholarship Deadline is March 27th
March 1, 2015: NFFE members with college-bound children are able to apply for scholarships from the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund. Further details for the scholarship application can be found here.
NFFE Counsel Honored in Death
February 27, 2015: NFFE Associate Counsel Phillip Snodgrass was hit and killed by a car that suddenly left the road. Snodgrass will be remembered for his strong work ethic and easy-going character . Snodgrass defended Local 1998 in a hearing just last month.
Partial Agreement Reached on Security Clearances
February 24 2015: The Federal Services Impasses Panel instructed the Agency and Union to submit their final arguments concerning a remaining Security Clearance term in dispute. The majority of provisions were bargained to conclusion. Terms the Agency is already committed to for the upcoming clearance upgrades can be found here.
Grievance Filed Over Denial Of Comp Time Option
February 20, 2015: Local 1998 filed a grievance over changes in overtime compenstaion. Comp time, a bargain for taxpayers compared to the alternative of overtime pay rates, was withdrawn as an option for employees at various regional passport offices.
FLRA: Forty Five Agency Positions Wrongly Classified
February 2, 2015: A decision on a Union request to clarify who is within Local 1998's bargaining unit arrived today. The FLRA ruled that 45 of 60 positions that Local 1998 had challenged were, in fact, incorrectly classified as Management positions.
Cake from New Orleans officers commemorates NFFE 1998's birthday
Arbitrator Hears Arguments About Official Time Use
January 21, 2015: Passport Services took NFFE 1998 to arbitration today over a grievance, claiming that Union officers at the Law Enforcement Liaison (LE) office misused official time by attempting to set up meetings when not on official time. The allegations started once a different arbitrator ruled LE Management had improperly denied union time requests.
FLRA: No Wrongdoing by NFFE in San Juan Bargaining
January 16, 2015: The Washington region of the Federal Labor Relations Authority determined that an Agency Unfair Labor Practice charge against NFFE 1998 was without merit. The Agency had filed the ULP when Union brought a bargaining team of three to a negotiation session over San Juan office layout. The Agency unsuccessfully argued that the CBA gave it the right to determine the size of bargaining teams.
Failure to Bargain Office Layout Goes to Arbitration
January 7, 2015: Well-known arbitrator Norm Abrams will settle a dispute concerning the San Juan Passport Agency. The Agency had failed to respond to a Union request for floor plans, then completed construction in Puerto Rico without involving the employees. Continuing, inadequate space for adjudicators, along with refusals of the agency to negotiate prompted the Union involve a third party
Officers Boyd Hinton, Sue Lamie and Josue Trinidad-Perez during a break in security clearance negotiations