posted April 17, 2020

At a time when working conditions have never been more stressful and chaotic, DoDEA is asking a federal panel to assert jurisdiction over the remaining proposals for which the parties have not reached agreement in the negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for Overseas employees, with the apparent hope of having that panel impose management’s harmful contract terms on the Overseas bargaining unit.

Among the incredibly harmful provisions DoDEA management seeks to impose are severe cuts and restrictions on LQA, a virtual elimination of grievance rights and civil service protections, and an extension of the duty day with no additional pay.

DoDEA last week asked the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) to assert jurisdiction over the remaining proposals for which the parties have not reached agreement.

After several months of Overseas contract negotiations, FEA and DoDEA met for a total of six weeks earlier this year with a federal mediator in hopes of reaching agreement on the many significant issues still separating the two sides, but little progress was made. FEA proposed a number of compromises but DoDEA refused to budge from its harmful positions.

Throughout the bargaining process, DoDEA has relied upon a trio of Executive Orders issued in 2018. Those Executive Orders direct federal Agencies to restrict due process and other civil service protections, among other potentially illegal acts. As a result, FEA has filed an Association Grievance charging DoDEA with an Unfair Labor Practice.

The mediator released both parties from the mediation process in March, allowing DoDEA to ask the FSIP to assert jurisdiction over the negotiations. If the FSIP does assert jurisdiction, FEA and DoDEA will present arguments to the impasses panel over all contract proposals on which the two sides have not reached agreement. The FSIP will then impose final terms for those disputed proposals.

The danger to FEA Overseas members — which DoDEA appears to be counting on — is that the FSIP could adopt all or nearly all of management’s positions on the disputed contract articles, ignoring FEA’s proposals and imposing the very harmful working conditions DoDEA management has been seeking throughout the negotiations process. When the same panel was called upon to settle several unresolved articles in a successor Master Labor Agreement for DoDEA Americas teachers in late 2018, it adopted virtually all of DoDEA’s positions.

The negotiations for the Overseas contract made clear that management seeks to impose very harmful working conditions on educators in Europe and the Pacific. The five educators who served on FEA’s Overseas bargaining team have done an excellent job throughout the process explaining why DoDEA’s proposals will make it harder to attract and retain quality educators, the impact of management’s proposals, and how management’s proposals may ultimately harm the quality of the Overseas schools.

Those initial negotiations and the mediation session took place before the current COVID-19 crisis became widespread. DoDEA’s efforts right now to have its harmful contract provisions imposed on Overseas employees — at a time when so many are already anxious about their living and working conditions — is an insult to the long hours and hard work its educators are putting forth to get students and families through this crisis. Furthermore, the move by DoDEA may well degrade the quality of the school system by driving educators away from a system whose workforce is already stressed to the breaking point.

FEA will try to persuade members of the FSIP of the harm DoDEA’s proposals will cause, and will seek to convince the panel not to adopt the negative changes management seeks to implement.

Among the most harmful contract provisions DoDEA wants to include in a new Overseas contract are:

  • Eliminating current policies on Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) that allow employees to continue receiving LQA after 10 years if they sell their home or move into other quarters. These proposals seek to provide only utilities reimbursement after 10 years of owning a POQ, if the employee continues to live in the POQ, unless the employee was to relocate to a new commuting area. Furthermore, for employees who purchased a POQ, received LQA for 10 years and sold the POQ, DoDEA’s proposals would allow only one year of LQA to continue after the contract becomes effective before employees have their LQA cut off completely, unless the employee was to relocate to a new commuting area. DoDEA seeks to implement these changes within one year of the new contract being imposed, with no grandfathering of current LQA recipients.
  • Severely weakening and in many instances eliminating grievance rights for Overseas employees, including the elimination of protections such as the “Goodbye Grievance”, which helps protect members against improper debt claims after they retire or separate from the Overseas bargaining unit.
  • Ending “just cause” as the standard the Agency must meet for adverse actions against Overseas employees. Instead, DoDEA would only have to claim its actions were taken to improve the “efficiency” of the Agency: a much weaker standard to prove.
  • Extending the duty day in Overseas schools by 90 minutes with no additional pay, which would result in Overseas employees working the equivalent of about 40 extra days per school year without compensation.
  • Severely restricting Official Time for Association representatives who have been elected by their peers to represent them, making it much harder for those reps to serve members and protect employee rights.
  • Proposing to end “spread pay.” DoDEA’s proposal would provide that overseas educators would only be provided with 21 pay periods, and eliminating the 26 pay period (“spread pay”) option.

Assuming the FSIP does assert jurisdiction in the Overseas contact negotiations, a timeline will be established for FEA and management to meet with the panel. As noted in previous updates, the Association intends to seek a Ratification vote on the new Negotiated Agreement.

FEA, as always, will continue to do all it can to protect the rights and benefits of our members and, should those rights and benefits be unfairly slashed, we will immediately begin fighting to restore them. The currently valid Overseas Negotiated Agreement, which was signed in 1989 and has since been amended by numerous Memoranda of Agreement, remains in effect until a new Overseas contract is lawfully implemented.

Look for more updates and information from FEA about this process and it moves forward. You can also read past updates on the Overseas contract bargaining process by going to FEA’s Overseas Contract Bargaining page