Final contract between union and TSA expected next week

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

A final labor agreement between the Transportation Security Administration and the union representing airport screeners could come next Wednesday, according to an official involved in the negotiations.

TSA and the American Federation of Government Employees have been huddled in intense negotiations during the past week and will meet July 31 and Aug. 1 to wrap up the talks and announce a deal, said AFGE General Counsel David Borer.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” Borer said on Tuesday. “Both parties have expressed that they believe we are really close to an agreement.” The negotiations have continued for more than 120 days.

The first-ever collective bargaining agreement between the agency and the union will mark a 10-year campaign by AFGE to represent exclusively 45,000 transportation security officers. AFGE won representation in June 2011.

TSA’s current pay-for-performance system, known as the Performance Accountability and Standards System, has been a frequent topic of debate during the negotiations, Borer said. PASS evaluates how well screeners are performing and determines employees’ annual pay raises. AFGE claims the system is discriminatory to older workers, minorities and women.

TSA’s then-Deputy Administrator Gales Rossides told lawmakers in 2008 during a congressional hearing that PASS rewards an employee’s performance to increase overall transportation security. “How does PASS improve security? When you get paid more to do a better job, you do a better job,” Rossides said at the time.

Borer said the union’s objective is to work with TSA to devise a system that is “perceived to be more fair and transparent” than PASS.

The agency and the union have agreed separately on independent third-party reviews of employee disputes, Borer said. AFGE will be able to appeal discipline, adverse actions, removals and other disputes to a neutral third party. AFGE TSA Council 100 President Kimberly Kraynak-Lambert applauded the move. “This is great news and a huge victory for our officers from all over the country,” she said. “For a decade we have had no opportunity to have our cases heard before a neutral third party. TSA has been the judge and the jury for too many years.”

TSA would not discuss any specifics associated with the contract negotiations. "At this time, we are focused on working with AFGE on all remaining issues,” David Castelveter, TSA’s director of external communications, said in an email. “We will address questions about the content of the agreement when negotiations are complete."

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