AFGE, VA sign new contract

After six years of negotiations, AFGE’s National VA Council and the Department of Veterans Affairs signed a collective bargaining agreement that defends critical protections for VA workers while modernizing the hiring process.

The signing ceremony took place on Aug. 8 at the VA Medical Center in Salem, Virginia.

“We always knew the work of a union representative would never be finished. But my oh my, these last six years have shown us all what it means to never give up and keep fighting,” said NVAC President Alma Lee.

“The message is clear that when the union and management work together, we can accomplish much. Much has been accomplished here, when you look at this contract,” AFGE President Everett Kelley said. “It’s going to be better for the employees, it’s going to be better for the agency, it’s going to be better for our communities.”

Contract negotiations started in 2017, and both sides did not reach an agreement until this spring. Through years of tough negotiations and relentless anti-worker attacks, AFGE NVAC, which represents about 300,000 VA employees, remained steadfast in fighting to preserve and expand protections for VA workers. AFGE members ratified the contract in June.

“Together we listened to each other, we worked together, we focused on modernizing and improving VA’s hiring, preserving VA employee rights, fostering a positive and collaborative Labor-management relationship. Now all of that is manifest in this contract,” McDonough said.

The new agreement is a remarkable milestone. It not only preserves 99 percent of the 2011 Master Agreement but also modernizes Article 23, specifically focusing on Title 5 Merit Promotion. The changes to Article 23 aim to enhance and streamline the promotion process, ensuring a more equitable and merit-based system for VA employees.

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