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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Earning New Benefits, Protecting Old Ones

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Erik S. Lesser/AP file photo

In June 2011, the American Federation of Government employees won the right to represent employees at the Transportation Security Administration. More than a year later, TSA workers ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

That contract created new awards for employees, reformed the leave process, placed a greater emphasis on giving benefits to workers with seniority and increased the allowance for uniforms.

The agency and union could not come to an agreement on several elements of the negotiations, however, and the outstanding provisions were argued before an arbitration panel.

AFGE scored “important wins” for 45,000 Transportation Security Officers in the arbitration decision released this week. Among the victories was a small increase in parking subsidies. AFGE had supported 100 percent coverage, but TSA said it couldn’t afford it and the arbitrators settled on a maximum of $35 in out-of-pocket parking costs for employees.

The panel also ruled that TSA management must, when feasible, allow employees to bid on shifts for their home terminals in seniority order. The arbitrators declined to mandate the bidding, as AFGE requested, but increased the pressure to implement the process. AFGE also won the right to send representatives into some meetings with management.

“This is a very important step forward for TSA employees,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “TSOs voted AFGE as their exclusive union representative to build a movement strong enough to improve the notoriously difficult conditions they work under every day. There is still much to be done, but this decision moves us firmly in the right direction.”

Save Defense Commissaries

Commissaries are essentially grocery stores available to military personnel and their families on Defense Department bases.

Lawmakers and Pentagon officials have discussed the possibility of cutting subsidies for personnel shopping at the stores, or eliminating them from bases altogether.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., has said, not so fast. Forbes introduced the Military Commissary Sustainment Act, which would prevent the Pentagon from cutting funding for the stores in fiscal 2015. Instead, Defense should wait for the results of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to issue its recommendations.

Those are due out in early 2015.

Phishing Bait

A few weeks ago, about 100 uniformed and civilian Army employees received a strange email telling them to change the passwords for their retirement investment accounts.

The employees got nervous, called the Thrift Savings Plan in droves and alerted law enforcement agencies.

Turns out, the email was sent by an Army combat commander testing his subordinates to see if they would fall for the trick, The Washington Post reported. No personal information was jeopardized, and workers were appropriately alarmed.

Still, Pentagon officials said they will reassess their security test procedures. 

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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