Chapter Chatter - December 11, 2014


In this Chatter, we discuss these items:

  • Seventeen Dollars? (Expedited Security Process)
  • How Are Contract Carriers and Government Hotel Rates Making Your Life Easy?
  • TELEWORK? How Is It Working For You?
  • The Survey Is Not the Problem. But the Action Plan Methodology Has Issues.
  • Annual Performance Appraisals

Seventeen Dollars?

No, that is not the price for a week’s worth of coffee at Starbucks. Perhaps it is, but there are definitely folks who spend more than that! We are talking about the annualized cost of a TSA screening program ($85 for 5 years).

The program is called TSA Pre. Anyone who flies has seen this at the airport security points. Once enrolled, frequent travelers can go through an expedited, security -screening process. This includes not having to remove laptop computers from bags (you know, the ones we are required to carry); not having to remove shoes, belts, etc.; and not having to remove and display any liquid containers in those tiny plastic bags. This results in much quicker times navigating through airports, which can ultimately cut down on commute times to and from airports. Clearly, this is a win-win for the employee and the OCC.

This would significantly improve the quality of traveling employees’ work and personal life. And, it can pay for itself on virtually one flight (assuming a $25 bag fee), as employees will be able to carry luggage on that does not have to be scrutinized as closely as they are in the regular security lines.

We presented this “Quick Win” to OCC leaders recently and proposed they reimburse employees for the small cost. Unfortunately, they declined to consider this proposal.

What do you think? We would love to hear from those employees who travel extensively for the OCC.

FYI, you may have noticed the recently released OCC budget for FY 2015 projects a $50+ million dollar surplus.

How Are Contract Carriers and Government Hotel Rates Making Your Life Easy?

Finding it easy to book hotels in San Francisco or Los Angeles? Next week in San Francisco, the average hotel rate posted on SATO for 26 hotels (8 major chains) in or within 3 miles of the Financial District is nearly $400. Even if our agency allowed a 25% leeway on the government rate as the FDIC and other agencies do, the government rate is $209. Examiners are staying as far as 25 miles outside San Francisco and commuting as much as 45 minutes each way. If you flew in from Los Angeles, the daily round trip commute from your hotel is 30 minutes longer than your flight. And, you have no car.

If you are flying from Burbank to San Francisco, there are no non-stop fares for the 350 mile, one hour flight. For Burbank to Oakland, the one-way YCA fare is $203. From LAX to San Francisco, the one way YCA fare is $110. And since the contract shifted from United to American on that route, the carrier used is American Eagle with fewer flights at half the capacity with their Canadair jets. United and SWA offer twice as many flights and both use 737’s. And because you have to get there at least 90 minutes before your flight time, most examiners in Los Angeles (if they are trying to save the agency money or are being strongly encouraged to do so) have three or more hours added to their “airport” travel commute just because they cannot use a more convenient airport.

And this is just in California. Who do you think is expected to absorb all this additional commute time? Are you conducting all of your travel time for out of town assignments within working hours? If not, are you requesting (through e-Time) comp travel time? Are your ADCs or EICs factoring all of this additional commute time into their exams? Or do you still have the same work expectations/hours and commuting is simply on your account?

The agency does not control the hotel or airline government rates. We understand that. But let us know how your travel experiences have gone through 2014. Let us know if your ADCs and EICs are showing flexibility with schedules. Let us know if there are expectations on which airports you can use or not. All feedback is welcome.

TELEWORK? How Is It Working For You?

NTEU was presented the latest Telework Statistics (“Report”) covering the six-month period between March and September 2014. The Report suggests that nearly 64% of the agency teleworks. It is not broken out by Bargaining Unit employees vs non-Bargaining Unit employees. It does not plot TeleWork hours to total available work hours. And, the 99% approval rate on requests ignores verbal or email requests that were not documented in e-Time as declines.

The Report shows that, while a lot of employees may be TeleWorking, it really amounts to very little. Of the total hours available over the 13 pay periods covered by the Report, only about 4.2% of these hours were spent teleworking – and 80% of these were situational/non-recurring. The Report is helpful in that it breaks down this data by organization.

With regard to denials of TeleWork Requests: No one must not be deterred from requesting TeleWork. If employees are being discouraged from teleworking, NTEU cannot really do anything to help fix the situation unless employees put the request into e-Time. We cannot track data we do not have (i.e., we don’t know what we don’t know). Of course, it would help if management would also truly embrace TeleWork and encourage employees to put ALL requests in through e-Time, and not to rely on oral or email requests – in the interest of getting more comprehensive and meaningful data.

OCC management continues its longstanding resistance to TeleWork requests. The resistance sometimes now is tempered, because TeleWork so clearly is supposed to be "encouraged" when appropriate. However, OCC managers rarely find TeleWork appropriate on a recurring basis, and the line is frequently drawn at not more than once a week, recurring or situational.

Please check out the most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey OCC results were distributed on October 24, 2014 – see the results here. And read our TeleWork piece from our March 2014 Chapter Chatter.

The Survey Is Not the Problem. But the Action Plan Methodology Has Issues.

NTEU Expresses Profound Concerns.

You have probably seen by now the December 1 email sent to all employees by SDC Toney Bland ("Employee Engagement Survey Status"). The third bullet point indicates that the process in early 2015 will be "similar to last year" regarding meetings and action plans.

NTEU strongly objected to the original process. The process last year was deeply flawed. In many cases, employees believed the action planning process was not meaningful. Furthermore, some regarded the process as a charade or a coerced check-the-box exercise.

The December 1 email had absolutely no mention of NTEU, nothing about ongoing discussions with management, and certainly nothing about the legal obligation to brief NTEU and bargain over any changes resulting from the action planning. And then, notwithstanding management's knowledge of our strong objections, they announce that they will double-down on the original process.

Putting aside such disappointments for now, NTEU has had recent, productive discussions with certain senior managers. We look toward extending those discussions and for resulting changes in the engagement process. On the short term, there will be discussions about changing the action planning process in early 2015, including holding facilitated sessions in those areas where such is most crucially needed and can be most beneficial.

We welcome your questions or comments.

Annual Performance Appraisals (APA)

We have received questions from various employees asking about when your manager/rating official is supposed to make you aware of a possible downgrade in any Critical Skill Element (CSE).

Please refer to the Collective Bargaining Agreement at Article 8, Section 4. B. It states very specifically (and we/NTEU fought hard to get this language in that Article!) that:

“Art. 8, Section 4. B. Managers are not required to prepare interim ratings. However, during the interim review, the employee will be informed if the Rating Official has identified a change in the employee’s performance that would result in a reduction in the employee’s summary or element rating from that assigned in the prior year.”

You are entitled to receive timely notice from your manager/rating official that there may be a downgrade, so that you are provided the opportunity to address whatever may be causing the deficiency leading to a possible downgrade. You also have the right to check with your manager/rating official and ASK if your performance is on par with last year, or if any improvement is needed. Your rating official cannot say that he/she will not discuss any particular CSE rating. Your manager/rating official is supposed to be responsive to your inquiries.

Remember that simply signing your APA after your manager/rating official has his/her discussion with you (during which you are under no obligation to engage in discussion) is not an indication that you ‘accept’ the evaluation and ratings. Signing it merely signifies that you have ‘received’ it. Additionally, you have the right to rebut (within 7 work days from discussion with their rating official) the elements that were downgraded. Then, if a rating official will not reconsider and reinstate to the higher rating, you can consider discussing with an officer or steward and potentially filing a grievance.

There are supposed to be NO SURPRISES!!!

Sign the APA and grieve later, if necessary!

Membership makes a difference!