By now, all of you have received a SAFE message re-assigning our positions as Mission-Critical. This action by the Department of State dictates our nation-wide return to work on June 11, 2020.
Some of you may have also seen the recent tweets and Press Releases by Congressman Lankford (Et al.) demanding Passport Services explore options such as telework to resume passport issuance. Multiple Senators stressed:
…We certainly do not want any federal employees returning to work until it is safe to do so, which is why it is important that all remote working options be utilized to ensure maximum productivity until the time is right.”
Unfortunately, in an unprecedented move, the Undersecretary for Management decided to re-designate Passport Services as Mission-Critical, calling on all employees to report back to work within three days with little to no information on safety and security. The premise of Congressman Lankford’s argument maintains a person-centric focus to keep employees safe. Designating all staff as Mission-Critical goes against a safe return to work, the Senator’s call to action, and OPM guidance on a safe phased return to the workplace.
The Union was given very little lead time for this hasty return to work.
We have been in negotiations with Management regarding the closure of offices and how to keep employees safe. We iterated our three priorities when negotiating a return: Ensuring a safe working environment, ensuring job quality, and ensuring job production. The Union stressed that each priority could not be touched until the previous topics had been completely confirmed. However, the above mentioned congressional interest has upended this, and bargaining has not been completed.
We are extremely frustrated by this interruption to a phased approach for returning to a safe work environment. We feel that this return is political and does not align with public calls for action. It disregards our binding Master Agreement, which holds Management accountable to ensuring a safe working environment, and to negotiate with the Union on the needs of the BUE.
A. Continue to stay at home on WSL be self-identifying
B. Take sick or annual leave
C. Return to the office as scheduled on June 11, 2020.
What we need from you:
As BUE, we urge you to stay vigilant. If you feel that your rights have been harmed in any way, are denied leave and/or an alternative work schedule requests, contact your local steward or reach out to the national officers at NFFE1998-NationalOfficers@state.gov.
We want to reassure you that we are working on a decisive action to combat these types of ill-advised decisions and to pressure Management to comply with our Master Agreement. Please continue to check our website for updates. We strive to publish relevant information as we receive it to keep you informed.