Good day to one and all,
We hope everyone is well and the spring weather is bringing hope for a brighter future.
As your NFFE1998 National Officers, we would like to let folks know what we see on the horizon and an update on some of the ongoing issues we are working on.
If you are not aware, our projected workload is extremely large for the coming months. Because of that, we feel everyone should be prepared for the eventuality of a very busy summer and fall. With that workload in mind, we suspect all agencies will be operating at Phase 3 sooner rather than later. Additionally, we suspect options for telework, TDYs, and other options that afford BUEs to not be present at the worksite to be curtailed significantly. Even though this may not be in the best interest of everyone.
We are basing these projections on past practice and history of action by the Department and by the state of current affairs. The travel industry is ramping up, restrictions are lightening, more and more people are being vaccinated, and thus are emboldened to travel. We are seeing an increase in demand by the public to “get back to normal”. Cruise lines are looking to circumventing travel restrictions by potentially departing from non-U.S. ports, businesses are offering bonuses and incentives for business travel, and people are pushing for increased travel freedoms.
Ultimately this will greatly impact Passport operations, as there will undoubtedly be a surge in demand followed by significant pressure to meet that demand. For those of us that recall the nightmare of long hours and people winding out the door and around the building that was 2007, a repeat of such events is not out of the realm of possibility. So, considering the volume Passports may be faced with, pandemic protocols will be the least of Management’s priority.
The inevitability of a surge summer may not come to pass, but we feel obligated to forewarn of the potential, and the working environment under which we would be required to perform. Please take note of this and prepare for the worst, while hoping for more favorable conditions.
The second topic that we want to elaborate on is the Bureau Announcement: Isolation, Quarantine and Stay at Home Guidance for COVID-19 (Updated as of April 7, 2021 – https://departmentnoticesprod-usdos.msappproxy.net/ArchivedNotice/80599?origin=email#). Based on this updated announcement one might have questions on how to handle leave regarding this ongoing topic. Since the Union does not make policy and can only attempt to bargain, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure that we all find the best method to protect ourselves and those around us when it comes to COVID-19. With safety in mind, it is our suggestion to anyone that may have been exposed to COVID-19 that they reach out to their personal physician or their local health authority in regards in quarantine protocols. We want everyone to get the fastest and safest quarantine guidance on what they should do in relation to their health and for the health of everyone in the workplace. Hopefully by working with your personal physician or your local health authority you will find a way to be guaranteed the best leave option for yourself.
As one can imagine the beginning of COVID Year 2 does not seem to be making things easier and has kept all of us very busy with grievances and arbitrations. So, we thought it was important that we update everyone regarding some of the issues we have been working on. We are in the process of or working towards arbitrations or Alternative Dispute Resolutions on our Mission Critical Status, Hazard Pay, Weather and Safety Leave, and Administrative Leave usage. Even if you feel that our employer has gone above and beyond for us, for good or bad all these topics have had a very big impact on our lives since we returned to our respective offices in June of 2020. As we all know nothing moves very fast in our work world, so only time will tell if we are successful in our quest to find remedies for everyone.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local NFFE 1998 representative or one of the National Officers, if your agency or center does not currently have representation, for workplace assistance.
Finally, please don’t forget to see our website NFFE1998.org for updated information.
Your NFFE1998 National Officers