BEN HUNTER – FEA-SR General Counsel
Special Update
Meeting with Management 
Last week FEA SR met with management for our regular monthly meeting. Management officials present included Dr. Judy Minor — Director of Student Excellence for DoDEA Americas, Elgin Woods — Labor Management Relations Human Resources Specialist, Gordon Harmon — Human Resources Director for DDESS and Steve Hovanic –Americas Chief of Staff.
Our agenda included a topic about the identification of excess positions and the current process of offering VERA VSIP during a reduction in force. Management stated that we are not in a reduction in force! DoDEA is losing 300 full time positions at the end of this school year, so yes we are indeed in a RIF. Management is trying to get away with not following the contract when it comes to RIF procedures. They do not intend to be transparent and open as they begin to disrupt our workforce.
During the meeting, Management refused to confirm that it would adhere to the process letter for VERA VSIP and RIF that was developed by the Agency and has used in the past. No explanation was provided on why this year the agency would  not follow  the protocol developed by DDESS HR to comply with OPM guidance, past practice, and requirements under the MLA . The Agency has not provided FEA-SR any notice or bargained changes to excessing procedures.
Reassignments and Reduction in Force are covered in our negotiated agreement, the MLA. Management is failing to abide by OPM’s guidance on RIF, which states clearly OPM guidance should be used with applicable articles contained in the agency’s collective bargaining agreement.
What we gleaned from our discussion is that Management intends to reassign employees out of the teaching categories they currently teach (during a RIF) and into other positions, potentially displacing other bargaining unit employees.  Such action would be in violations of Article 22 and Article 23 of the MLA, past practice, OPM guidance and even the process developed by DDESS HR that has been used in years past.
Management in the Southeast district performed a similar action last year on a smaller scale effecting two locals. We believe management intends to attempt the same illegal been action this year across DDESS, moving employees out of teaching categories during a RIF. FEA SR filed a grievance over last years contract violation and abuse of authority.
During the meeting, Mr. Harmon repeatedly told us it is management’s right to reassign employees wherever they would like as long as they are certified. He also stated that he doesn’t have to give anyone a VERA VSIP. Mr. Harmon’s disregard for the requirements under the MLA, past practice and OPM guidance is very concerning.  Whatever the Agency’s justification is for violating the requirements under the MLA it does not take into account what is good for students or our schools. Upper level managers don’t always know what impact their poor decisions will have on our schools.  We all can name many poor decisions DoDEA management has made that have negatively impacted our workplace, our schools, which are the learning environment for our students. DoDEA is currently listed as 357 out of 415 best places to work in the federal government. .
Directly after our meeting, management reassigned a FLES teacher out of her clearly excess position to a fourth grade position at a new school. This teacher had applied for VERA VSIP, as she knew FLES was excess since DoDEA cut the program. She is ready to retire. She should have been one of the first people to receive a VERA VSIP offer. However, management moved her out of her excess position so she may not get any offer of VERA VSIP. Management also failed to realize that moving her impacts students in three schools. She will no longer see her FLES students in two schools. She may not be fully prepared to teach fourth grade. She can no longer tutor students after school at her current school. She can no longer fulfill her duties as CSI chair. Management moved her away from all of this! They agency could have hired a new teacher for the fourth grade class, onboarding someone that will be with DoDEA for a long career. Management chose to move a teacher that will retire at the end of this year, claiming it was within management’s right, it is actually just a poor and spiteful and illegal decision that harms students.
If management continues on this path they will cause more harm to our schools, our educators and our students.  FEA SR has asked management to follow our contract and OPM guidance for RIF. If they fail to do so we will file a grievance and we can go to arbitration.
Our bargaining unit must be aware that DoDEA management will try to over reach it’s authority because they feel they can in these times. DoDEA management needs some over sight. They need to be reminded that they work for the federal government. We often say Congress is our school board; well Congress is DoDEA managements’ school board also! Every federal employee must abide by negotiated agreements and laws. Hopefully DoDEA managers will get that reminder!