Union negotiates foreign language pay for customs, border officers

Customs and Border Protection officers who use their foreign language skills on the job have the opportunity to earn monetary awards equaling up to 5 percent of their base pay, under an agreement reached with a labor union last week.

The American Federation of Government Employees' CBP Council 117 reached the agreement with the CBP Office of Field Operations to grant officers the additional pay under the agency's Foreign Language Award Program.

CBP also will pay for an officer's exam to test foreign language skills once per year -- and for two additional exams per year for languages of special interest.

The score on the exam correlates to a percentage of base pay, up to a maximum award of 5 percent. Once an officer achieves the maximum through testing, there is no need to retest in order to receive the monetary award. Officers also can test for more than one language and combine percentage points in order to achieve the maximum 5 percent benefit, according to the agreement.

The Foreign Language Award Program, established by the 1993 Customs Officer Pay Reform Act, allows employees who speak and use foreign language skills on the job to receive a cash award if they use the language for at least 10 percent of their duties and have passed the competence test.

"We are extremely pleased with the outcome of these negotiations," said AFGE President John Gage. "CBP officers deserve compensation for their high skill level in the area of foreign languages, and this agreement is only going to help strengthen the security of America's borders."

The move comes amid discontent over CBP's move to consolidate more than 20,000 non-Border Patrol employees -- represented by three different unions based on the agencies they had worked for prior to the March 2003 creation of the Homeland Security Department -- under a single labor group.

On Jan. 17, the Federal Labor Relations Authority's Washington, D.C., regional office ordered the certification of AFGE's opponent, the National Treasury Employees Union, as the winner to be the sole representative for the non-Border Patrol employees.

But AFGE later appealed that ruling, arguing that there was lack of fair and equal access to CBP employees prior to the election. The official certification of a union for CBP employees is expected this month.

AFGE Assistant General Counsel Gony Goldberg said that if NTEU ends up getting certified, the union would have the option of sustaining the foreign language agreement until renegotiations are complete.

Goldberg said that both the NTEU and AFGE contracts with CBP employees have expired, adding that CBP refuses to negotiate with either union until the certification is finalized. But until the election is complete, the foreign language pay agreement for AFGE-represented CBP employees will remain in effect, she said.

"We're very hopeful that the FLRA will reconsider and reopen the election," Goldberg said. "And during that time period, our memorandum of understanding will be in effect so that any officer who gets the pay benefit cannot have it taken away."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.