The historic labor agreement covering 45,000 transportation security officers (TSOs) overhauls the current pay-for-performance system, puts in place a grievance process for workplace disputes and increases the uniform allowance.
On Thursday, the American Federation of Government Employees and the TSA reached a deal on the first-ever union contract for the officers who screen people and baggage at the nation’s airports. In the coming weeks, TSOs will vote on whether to ratify the contract.
The pay-for-performance system was probably the “biggest gripe” TSOs had, said AFGE President John Gage, in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.
Gage said the current pay-for-performance system relies 60 percent on a one-day evaluation, including a written test and observation of the TSO doing a patdown and screening. Meanwhile, the “actual, realistic, live performance on the job” throughout the year counted toward 40 percent of the pay-for-performance evaluation, he said.
“It was just patently unfair,” Gage said.
In the contract, TSOs will still need certification, but their pay will be assessed based on their performance throughout the year and not mainly on one day of testing.
Gage said the union still has problems with the certification, but he said the changes in the contract will help address the “abysmal morale” among TSOs.
Discussion of a due process was not part of the contract negotiations. Gage said he had separate discussions for four months with TSA Administrator John Pistole to establish a “fair, third-party grievance and arbitration system.”
Now, TSOs have Merit System Protection Board rights, as all other federal employees have, Gage said.
TSOs are also entitled to expedited arbitration on lesser discipline issues and workplace disputes, he added.
TSOs have been “nickel-dimed” on their uniform allowance, Gage said. The uniform allowance was $232 for this year. The contract would increase the allowance to $317 and provide three pairs of pants and three shirts at no cost, according to AFGE acting supervising attorney Chad Harris in an email.
The contract also gives TSOs greater flexibility in the uniform combinations they can wear. For example, TSOs in warmer climates can now wear shorts as part of their uniform.
“Little things like that really go a long way,” Gage said.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.