After weeks of negotiations, the IRS and NTEU have reached an agreement on making the process of closing the Submission Processing Center a bit easier on employees. Agency approval of the negotiated agreement came down today.
Included in the agreement will be three buy-out opportunities for employees, the first being late this year.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) must approve all buy-outs, but they have always done so in the past.
According to the agreement, the first buyout will be in October-November of this year. The seconds will be in October-November of 2018 and the final will be June-July of 2019.Once an employee receives a notice, they will have 21 days to accept a buy-out. Because an employee turns down the first buy-out will not make them ineligible for subsequent buy-outs. Taking a buy-out will also not affect an employee’s health insurance coverage.
Within 90 days of the agreement (May 2 in the execution date of the agreement), employees will receive a Reassignment Preference Notice (RPN) which will give them priority placement for IRS jobs.
The Agreement includes many provisions, including outplacement help, voluntary incentives through job swaps, EAP services, retirement calculations and assistance to employees with disabilities.
Within 30 days of the agreement, IRS will conduct formal meetings with all impacted bargaining unit employees and local NTEU representatives. Each employee will be given a copy of the agreement at the meeting and will be given one hour of administration time to meet with NTEU representatives to discuss the terms of the agreement.
IRS will be conducting training on the agreement and on VERA/VSIP (buy-outs and early outs) for up to 30 stewards prior to the meetings.
In addition, the agreement calls for the establishment of an NTEU/IRS Oversight Board to administer the agreement and deal with unforeseen problems that may occur.
I was surprised how quickly IRS got agency approval,” said NTEU73 President Riley. “It may a record for speed. I was expecting up to 30 days. But within 30 days we will have the meetings and employees will be given all the details and an opportunity to ask questions and get a firm understanding of what the future holds as far as the ramp down is concerned.”
Mr. Riley headed the negotiations with NTEU Chief Counsel Mike McAuley. Several stewards served on the negotiating team, providing valuable input. The Oversight Board will be evaluating whether it is feasible to realign work to the Covington area from elsewhere to provide employment opportunities for those who are left behind when the building finally closes in 2019.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is expected to the be only the first of series of smaller agreements as the process plays out. Other MOU’s could address moving of unit and bringing in additional work, other than Submission work. It has been said that there will be work here until 2019, in relation to the work force. In other words, as the workforce shrinks, so will the work. But the IRS is not planning to reduce the work as long as they have the people to do it.
Many seasonal employees have questions about the length of their seasons. So far, rather than having shortened seasons, the seasons have been extended.
“Many of these things there are no answers to,” explained Mr. Riley. “That is a big reason for the Oversight Board. As things move along, NTEU will be making sure that the employee’s interests are heard. Frankly, sometimes the IRS loses sight of that and that is why NTEU is here and is involved. The employees and how they are affected are the only things I am thinking about.”
As the meetings roll out, NTEU and IRS management will have more information available, even on an individual level.
“There will be help in getting employees their individual numbers and other information so that they are in a better position to make decisions that best suit them,” said Mr. Riley. “The union is doing everything we can to help as many as we can.”