Annual Report 2014 | American Foreign Service Association
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6

Security

AFSA’s focus post-Benghazi has been to ensure that employees

have the security awareness and language training necessary to

safely and effectively engage overseas. According to the member-

ship survey, more than half of employees disagree or strongly dis-

agree that the department has struck the right balance between

risk and reward; more than half agree or strongly agree that, post-

Benghazi, it is

more

difficult for employees to effectively engage

overseas. Most strikingly, six out of seven respondents noted that

it is important for AFSA to be at the table when the department

makes decisions that impact employee security or exposure to risk.

AFSA will continue to pursue participation in the depart-

ment’s new risk-management decision-making model—the Vital

Presence Validation Process (known as VP2)—because those de-

cisions affect where and under what conditions employees serve

overseas. This is especially important now that the department

seeks to avoid the traditional authorized and ordered departure

designations in favor of new “temporary relocation” procedures.

AFSA was able to negotiate changes to the language designa-

tion process to enable posts for the first time to language-desig-

nate based on security concerns. We also negotiated new work

requirements regarding security and personal accountability that

addressed our concerns regarding potential overly broad appli-

cation. We provided feedback to the department on the revised

“crash and bang” security awareness training—now mandatory

for all employees—and the new course “Doing Diplomacy in

High-Threat Posts.”

Outreach

AFSA engaged its active-duty State members using a full spectrum

of tools: webinars with AFSA post representatives and information

resource management specialists; visits to five overseas and two do-

mestic posts; and mid-termmember information sessions at AFSA

headquarters, Main State and FSI. The FSI event can be viewed

online at

http://www.fsivideo.state.gov/videos/afsa.

In addition, in

partnership with FSI and the Bureau of Human Resources, we have

begun work on a first-of-its-kind online course on Foreign Service

labor management relations that we hope to roll out in 2015.

Partnerships

AFSA strengthened relationships with its Civil Service union

counterparts—AFGE Local 1534 and NFFE Local 1998—on

items of mutual interest, such as employee protections enshrined

in the Vance Memo and establishment of an employee leave

bank. We developed new relationships with our military asso-

ciation counterparts (Army and Navy), enlisting their support in

our efforts to obtain Senate confirmation of career ambassado-

rial nominations. Finally, we worked with the department on ap-

pointments to the Foreign Service Grievance Board and Foreign

Service Impasse Disputes Panel, both of which play an important

role in resolving labor management disputes.

Negotiations

Throughout the year, AFSA negotiated the substance, impact

and implementation of new department policy proposals. We

negotiated new regulations governing employees’ private com-

munications (3 FAM 4170), ensuring that the department would

make an agency decision within 30 days of submission on the

permissibility of private-capacity publication; we increased em-

ployee eligibility rules for details and long-term training to ac-

commodate employees remaining longer in class; and we agreed

to a review and reform of the Priority Staffing Post incentive

program.

We ensured that employees at five posts slated for R&R elimi-

nation would have additional time to take advantage of the R&R

benefit before it was eliminated. And, though we couldn’t prevent

elimination of the skills incentive pay benefit, we negotiated an

extra six months of eligibility for some IRM professionals.

The year concluded with an ambitious department proposal to

reform the performance management system—the form, number

of boards and process for conferring Meritorious Service Increas-

es. AFSA is reviewing the proposal.

Implementation Disputes

Despite the many successful agreements and resolutions, there

were a number of disputes on which we were unable to reach

agreement with the department.

AFSA filed implementation disputes regarding the depart-

ment’s decision not to implement any of the 554 MSI recommen-

dations of the 2013 Selection Board and only half, or 270, of the

2014 Selection Board recommendations. The 2013 and 2014 cases

are currently before the Foreign Service Grievance Board. AFSA

alleges that the department’s actions violate past practice and ne-

gotiated labor agreements—i.e., the 2013 and 2014 procedural

precepts—and expects decisions by the Foreign Service Grievance

Board in 2015.

We filed a cohort grievance on behalf of the 11,000 Foreign Ser-

vice employees who were required to repay more than the Over-

seas Comparability Pay overpayment they had received through

no fault of their own. AFSA believes that all employees have an

obligation to repay the actual amount of overpayment—no more

and no less.

We also filed an implementation dispute regarding a violation

of the procedures and past practice governing the two-year pilot

Overseas Development Program that governs the assignment of

non-Foreign Service personnel to overseas Foreign Service posi-

tions. AFSA alleges that the department violated our agreement by

proceeding over AFSA’s objection to include the FS-2 Iran Watch-

er position in the program.

Finally, AFSA filed implementation disputes concerning Dip-

lomatic Security’s entry-level assignments policy for new local

hires and the department’s failure to obtain union agreement be-

fore proceeding with new post policy.

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