SSA, AFGE sign off on final contract

Monday - 5/7/2012, 5:27pm EDT

The Social Security Administration and its largest union, the American Federation of Government Employees, have signed off on a final contract, capping more than two years of tough negotiations.

The union and SSA management signed off on 53 final articles to the four-year contract, all of which much be approved by AFGE members during the "ratification" process.

The final contract includes changes to office travel and benefits, among a number of provisions.

  • "SSA will make every effort to ensure that employees who travel will receive travel card and authorization in time to arrange transportation and lodging," according to a summary of the final contract.

    First-time travelers without travel cards or who stay in lodging that doesn't accept government cards, will be provided with cash advances. The agency will also handle on a case-by-case basis instances where employees' credit history or personal beliefs would proscribe employees from using travel cards.

  • Employees will have the right to bargain over offices moves and renovations, including floor plans.

  • The contract includes stronger language to ban disruptive visitors and SSA will document such instances.

  • Local union representatives and managers will meet once a year to discuss causes of workplace stress and ways to reduce it.

  • Vision benefits are expanded to pay for as much as $200 for eyeglasses and $65 for eye exams.

  • The contract provides a transit subsidy of $125 for employees in the Washington, D.C. area. The subsidy for those outside the capital region, will be $75 for the 2013, $80 for the next two years and $90 for 2016.

  • The new contract adds gender identity and genetic information as areas protected from discrimination.
Since the two sides began talks in late 2009, negotiations often became tangled in stalemate.

Citing a lack of progress in talks, AFGE requested the negotiations be moved to the Federal Services Impasse Panel in October 2011. The next month, Witold Skwierczynski, AFGE's chief negotiator, told Federal News Radio the two sides remained "far apart" and that it would be "pointless to continue on the path that we're on."

Nevertheless, negotiators reached a basic "conceptual agreement" in March. The "breakthrough" followed four weeks of "intense mediation," Skwierczynski said.

RELATED STORIES:

AFGE, SSA reach 'conceptual agreement' on new contract

SSA, AFGE still at negotiating impasse

Social Security/AFGE negotiations take a bad turn