Protections for Covington Employees

Initial Agreement Reached on SP Ramp-down

Since the IRS announced plans to close Submission Processing (SP) Operations at the Covington Center in 2019, the Fresno Center in 2021 and the Austin Center in 2024, NTEU has been working nonstop, fighting for your jobs and your future.

I had the opportunity to meet many of you last October when IRS announced the ramp-downs in Submission and in February of this year when I had the honor to address your questions at a series of meetings sponsored by NTEU Chapter 73. I heard your frustration and concern about IRS’ decision to close the Covington SP Operation first, and how the IRS business case was no solace after your track record of loyal service and superior work performance making the Covington SP operation center the best nationwide in quality and quantity. Many of you have worked there for your entire career, members of your family work at the IRS and you take pride in your work. I told you then and I repeat now that we are working on every option to create new jobs, retirement opportunities and placement opportunities for each and every affected employee in SP.

Earlier this month, NTEU signed our first MOU with the IRS regarding the SP closure at your location. Our main goal, in addition to convincing Congress and IRS to create more jobs for SP employees, was to implement mitigation strategies immediately. I want to commend our bargaining team led by NTEU Chapter 73 President Ricky Riley for their hard work and dedication in reaching this agreement and their continuing efforts on behalf of affected employees. IRS Commissioner Koskinen supports our position that both job placement and additional options go into effect as soon as possible for the dedicated staff at this SP. Highlights of the agreement include:

  • An IRS Statement of Commitment that all affected SP employees will not be involuntarily separated or downgraded for SP ramp-down related reasons prior to Sept. 28, 2019; This means that affected employees can count on their current employment for an additional 28 months.;
  • IRS agreed to requesting three VERA/VSIP windows from 2017-2019; These three (3) $25,000 buyout/early retirement windows could be scheduled in October/November 2017, October/November 2018 and June/July 2019.;
  • 90 days after the agreement goes into effect, each employee will be issued an Reassignment Preference Notice (RPN) letters, allowing priority selection for open positions at the same or lower grade;
  • The IRS will obtain waivers from OPM of the 5 year FEHB participation rate for employees who retire via a VERA/VSIP requirement in order for those employees to be eligible for retiree FEHB health insurance coverage;
  • IRS retirement specialists will conduct employee briefings prior to the first and third VERA/VISP windows, and employees will be given administrative time to consult with VERA/VISP subject matter experts;
  • The job swap process for VERA/VISP will be established via an electronic bulletin board. The NTEU/IRS Oversight Board, made up of two IRS and two NTEU representatives will resolve any ramp down related disputes;
  • The IRS will allow employees to relocate to follow their work, provide grade and pay retention to the maximum extent allowed by law and EAP services;
  • Outplacement services will be offered including a “crosswalk” document designed for SP employees at the Grade 3-9 level to qualify for jobs in other operating divisions and quarterly activities like presentations by community colleges and local employers as well as classes on using USA jobs; and
  • Assistance for employees with disabilities, retirement calculations according to the Government Retirement Benefit (GRP) platform and administrative time for record validations.

It is anticipated from our conversations that 30 percent or more of employees will utilize one of the three (3) the VERA/VISP options. If eligible you can choose the window that best suits your needs. However, the VERA/VSIP is only one part of the plan. NTEU feels it is essential to put as much pressure on the IRS to realign work, create new job opportunities and use the IRS decision to close the SP operation as a chance to fill already vacant positions in other parts of the IRS with affected SP employees. Due to our negotiations, the ‘Collaboration’ (Section 4) portion of the agreement gives NTEU the opportunity to work alongside the IRS Workload Distribution Team to find ways to move work to the areas affected by the closures. This gives us not only a voice, but the ability to make recommendations, consider specific types of work and elevate any issues directly with IRS leadership. Locally, the IRS Oversight Board will address ongoing issues with NTEU consulted every step of the way.

We will continue to work tirelessly to provide opportunities for IRS employees, not only with local and national IRS officials but on Capitol Hill. I want you to know that we are doing all we can to create new jobs, retirement opportunities and placement opportunities for each and every affected SP employee.
NTEU is determined to assist employees in any way we can and we will be with you every step of the way. Chapter 73 and the rest of NTEU want you to know, you are not alone. I urge you to take advantage of the provisions of this agreement, examine all your options, educate yourself as to your rights, make decisions in your enlightened self-interest and work with NTEU to fight for jobs, dignity and respect in the workplace.

Tony Reardon

National President