The Foreign Service Journal - November 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2017 65 NOTES FROM LABOR MANAGEMENT AFSA NEWS The Perils of Post Allowances It can happen to anyone. You’ve been overpaid, and the State Department wants its money back. It’s an unpleas- ant surprise, but one that you can do a lot to avoid with a few basic precautions. The Bureau of the Comp- troller and Global Financial Services tells us that over- payments most often occur when an employee receiving allowances or differentials departs post for a period that changes the basis for those payments. If you don’t notify the Human Resources or Finan- cial Management Office—or if post delays reporting your departure to CGFS—then the systemwill continue paying you at the higher rate instead of the (correct) reduced one. Remember that arrival or departure of family members may also change post allow- ance payments. • Notify your HRO/FMO whenever you or your family members arrive at or depart post • Check that post notifies CGFS promptly. • Review your earn- ings and leave statement regularly through Employee Express (www.employee In particular, review the earnings section of the E&Lwhere your allow- ances/differentials are item- ized. This is critical! If you believe you’ve been over- or underpaid, contact Payroll Customer Support at or 877-865-0760 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday. Just because the depart- ment makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean you can keep the overpayment.Waivers are rare; you will most likely be asked to repay the overpayment in a lump sum or in installment by salary deduction. The Department of State Standardized Regulations cov- ers the rules on allowances, but here’s a brief outline: Post Allowance (or Cost of Living Adjustment) starts the date you arrive at post or the date your family arrives at post if your arrival is delayed. It stops when you permanently depart from post, when you go on Home Leave, and on the 31st day of any other absence. If you are away from post for more than 30 days, the family size will be reduced by one member (e.g., if you go to an unaccompanied post and your family remains behind). Post Differential (also known as hardship pay) starts when you get to post (if you are assigned), or after 42 days (if you are on temporary duty). Some priority staffing posts have different rules. It stops when you PCS from post, leave on an emergency evacuation or travel to the United States for leave or training. It continues : for 42 days if you go to the U.S. on detail or medevac and an eli- gible family member remains at post; until you reach the United States. if you take R&R overseas en route; if you are on Family Visitation Travel from a hostile area; and if you are absent from PSP posts for up to 30 days. Danger Pay starts on arrival at post (must be at post for 4 cumulative hours in one day), and stops on depar- ture from post for any reason. We hope this will help you navigate the perils of post allowances, particularly as many of our members travel during the holiday season. Q —James Yorke, Senior Labor Management Adviser APHIS Framework Agreement Approved In August, AFSA and manage- ment of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service signed a “Framework Agree- ment” governing their labor- management relationship. That agreement was approved by APHIS in September, and is now in effect. AFSA became the formal union representative for Foreign Service employees in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in 2013. In August 2014, APHIS and AFSA signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding setting up the ground rules to begin negotiation of the frame- work agreement that would ultimately govern the labor management relationship. This agreement covers a broad range of topics, includ- ing such important matters as defining the scope of the bargaining unit, the duties of each party to the relationship, what constitutes an unfair labor practice, timelines for requesting negotiation on conditions of employment or changes in practices, as well as issues such as the rules regarding use of the Agency’s email for union business and attendance at meetings. The relationship between APHIS and AFSA has been one of mutual respect. Early on in the negotiations both parties attended joint training offered by the Federal Labor Relations Authority that allowed us to meet in person and get a broad overview of the undertaking. Negotiations have taken three years to complete. One of the more difficult issues to resolve was what positions fall within the bargaining unit, but after thoughtful and produc- tive discussion, we were able to reach consensus. The agreement will be available on the AFSAwebsite shortly. Q —Zlatana Badrich Esq., Senior Staff Attorney