May 6, 2010
The Transformation VA seeks was developed without input from rank and file providers. " Apparently, secretary Shinseki, while desiring to make change in the VA, is moving very, very fast. I am concerned that some of the sweeping changes are change for simply the purpose of change. Every new administration comes to Washington DC and changes things, that's what they do. However the scope and scale of these changes will alter forever the healthcare landscape in VA and I hope the VA Secretary truly understands the pitfalls of the process he has embarked on" stated NFFE VA Council President, Robert Redding.
At a recent conference in Las Vegas, while competent unionists presented some of the more glaring obstacles in the way of the PCHM transformation that need to be dealt with, VA Officials were heard to publicly state "cant we do this without the unions" and "why cant we just implement and get this going, the unions are holding the process up" Remarkably, the Hotel in Las Vegas which was the host site of this Federal VA Conference was allowed to have a Hotel Management Official present to the Veterans Administration group including AFGE, NAGE, NFFE, SEIU and UAN unionists just how proud it is that it is a Non Union hotel! Why a private sector Hotel, benefitting from the tax dollars associated with travel from 3,500 attendees was even permitted to speak at a Federal Healthcare conference is beyond me, stated NFFE VA Council President Robert Redding.
Virtually every Unionist who attended the Las Vegas Conference reported frustration with the confusion and risks associated with poor planning and the "implement at all costs" attitude of VA Management. At least one NFFE Local President however thought the concept was great and from what we can determine has no intent to bargain the complexities of the Primary Care Medical Home Model for her employees at the VA Medical Center, San Francisco. NFFE Local 1 Patricia R. LaSala, a twenty-five year Nurse Manager from the VA and current Local union President has recently praised VA for its efforts. NFFE Federal District 1 highlighted Ms. LaSala and her Local VA and VISN managers in a cover story on the official NFFE FD1 Web Site. These types of self serving expressions highlighting Union Officials and VA management while emphasizing how wonderful VA is doing truly undermine the efforts of the majority of hard working Local Union officials comprising our VA Council. It takes more than a "photo op" to represent your rank and file employees, and it is truly unfortunate that our parent organization placed Ms. LaSala's image with VA managers on our National site during a time when VA Labor Relations are at the lowest level in ten years, added NFFE VA Council President Robert Redding. I would have preferred that headquarters contact the majority of our Locals through the VA Council leadership to take the true temperature of the Las Vegas conference and more importantly the PCHM Transformation and to make a reasonable effort to understand what transformation is happening inside VA and how it is and will affect our rank and file members, but they didn't, added Redding. We expressed our disappointment with NFFE National President Bill Dougan.
The NFFE VA Council is presently reviewing the complex proposal on Primary Care Medical Home Model which it just recently received from the Department of Veterans Affairs and will be initiating National Negotiations very soon. Please look to this web site as we establish enhancements to allow our union members to filter through fluff and work to provider accurate information on VA changes. We strive to develop a positive Memorandum of Understanding so that our Veterans can get the best service they deserve and our employees can find respect and fair treatment in the workplace.
FROM Sunday, May 2, 2010
VA T-21 Initiatives
The Veterans Administration is embarking on some of the most significant and comprehensive changes in a generation. The Primary Care Home Model, PCHM is intended to dramatically change how Primary Care employees work and how our veterans are served.
The National Federation of Federal Employees along with other Federal VA Labor Unions have worked hard to compel the VA to live up to President Obama's Executive Order and to honor rights established under the statute, Chapter 71. In January 2010, the VA announced publicly at a National Partnership Meeting (NPC) the existence of T-21 Initiatives and it gave the Unions a brief presentation during the NPC of T-21 from a new Primary Care Home Model to a Kiosk for veterans to interact with. During this meeting, the VA official in charge of developing and ostensibly bargaining the new transformational changes for VA made no mention of any input by Labor or any training or conferences on the T-21 Initiatives. Approximately a month later, the NPC Unions became aware of a massive training event being set for Las Vegas from April 12 - 16, 2010. An estimated 3000 Federal Employees were to attend this conference. According to the PCHM information presented to the NPC, front line employees were to be the principal participants.
To the surprise of many VA Labor Unions, those attendees approved for the Las Vegas Conference contained not a single identifiable Union Member and the roster seemed barren of any truly front-line employees; those who actually work with our nation's veterans.
To redress this glaring oversight, a conference call was arranged between the five Federal Labor Unions representing VA employees, AFGE, NFFE, NAGE, SEIU and UAN. During this call, the Labor Unions pointed out that no collective bargaining had taken place, no rank and file providers were approved to attend the PCHM conference and no plans were being made to educate front line employees and the Labor Unions of PCHM, contrary to what the VA had indicated would occur. Almost in unison, the five unions issued Demands to Bargain and Cease and Desist orders. It was pointed out to the VA that the President had signed a new Executive Order (E.O.) "Partnership Order" and that the T-21 Initiatives had been worked on for approximately eighteen months with absolutely no input from Labor. As a matter of fact, evidence reveals that VA knew it was keeping Labor in the dark and encouraged this practice among those management officials involved with T-21 development. It was almost as if the VA knew Partnership was coming and wanted to complete planning on all of the T-21 Initiatives before it had to involve Federal Labor Unions. Rather than acting like a true partner, VA elected to act like a typical Federal Agency.
As of April 30, 2010 the VA has announced that the it had received Demands to Bargain from all Five Unions and that it would meet its statutory obligations, even though it had already gone ahead and hired untold positions before it formally proposed T-21 or concluded statutory bargaining. In defense of the VA action, this is what it has done for the last nine years, therefore it's behavior merely demonstrates it is adhering to the status quo.
In the end, after Labor Unions at the Council Level (NPC) complained, threatening grievances, VA decided to send and fund twenty National Unionists (NPC) and eventually, as a direct result of continued pressure from VA Councils, agreed to send VISN Unionists and Local Unionists and to make certain Front Line employees would attend. This action paved the way for all unionists to participate at Las Vegas.
Local 1 President LaSala is shown standing with some her VISN's PCHM people while attending the conference in Las Vegas. NFFE Local 1 was involved heavily with the T-21 Initiative and it had a seat at the table as direct result of the NPC Union's efforts; the agreements hammered out at the National Partnership level under the threat of a grievance.
Real Union representation and real partnership is more than a "photo op". To all those true unionists from AFGE, NFFE, NAGE, SEIU and UAN who labored to get our brothers and sisters to the Las Vegas conference, and a seat at the table -- thank you.
The NFFE VA Council has demanded to bargain Primary Care Home Model and will be receiving a comprehensive proposal from VA and will be bargaining to protect worker rights and make better services to our nation's veterans.
NFFE VA Council is optimistic that as we move ahead, the VA will more freely permit Labor engagement at the decision making level; the level of the VA National Leadership Board. We hope that eventually, VA will come to understand that true "pre decisional involvement" occurs when VA decides and that after it has developed issues like T-21, the time for pre decisional involvement has passed. NFFE VA Council understands that the "train has left the station" on some VA initiatives and we elect to find engagement at any point along the process. We recommend, however that should the union be permitted pre decisional involvement early on, the chances for the Executive Order and Labor Councils to succeed are enhanced.