AFGE worries about EPA’s telework future

Even with a new contract in place, the American Federation of Government Employees is still worried about the future of telework at the EPA.

  • The City of Angels is also the city of unfriendly dogs, if you are a letter carrier. Postal Service employees in Los Angeles saw the most dog bites of all U.S. cities in 2023, with 65. California is top among all states with more than 700 attacks on letter carriers. USPS said 5,800 dog bites happened to employees nationwide last year. Letter carriers can refuse to deliver mail to households where they feel unsafe, requiring customers to pick up their mail at the post office.
  • The Army is reimagining how it creates and maintains the technology that runs its command and control networks. The future of command and control for the Army will be based on open architectures, will not rely on any one type of network connection, and can be changed in real time to meet operational needs. These are the basic building blocks of the new Next Generation C2 characteristics signed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George on Tuesday. The idea is for the software-based approach to be simple and intuitive and give commanders a common operating picture that meets their needs. The Army is asking industry for feedback on the characteristics and expects to update the standards every six months.
  • An IRS-run system that lets households file their federal tax returns online — and for free — is here to stay. The IRS is making its Direct File platform a permanent option for taxpayers to file their federal tax returns. It is inviting all 50 states and the District of Columbia to participate during next year’s next filing season. IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said taxpayers who used Direct File generally spent less than an hour to file their tax returns, and that many completed their returns in as little as 30 minutes. “The clear message is that many taxpayers across the nation want the IRS to provide options for filing electronically at no cost," Werfel said.
  • Members of Congress are concerned about the Pentagon’s increasing reliance on Microsoft products. Sens. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore) sent a letter to the Pentagon asking about the department’s push to begin implementation of Microsoft’s most expensive licenses, known as E5, across all components starting next month. The Pentagon is considering mandating all department offices to implement the full suite of Microsoft 365 E5 licenses in the next 12 months. The lawmakers said the Defense Department is “doubling down on a failed strategy” of increasing reliance on the company’s products. The Pentagon wants all the components to complete their transitions by June 2, 2025.
  • Even with a new contract in place, the American Federation of Government Employees is still worried about the future of telework at the Environmental Protection Agency. AFGE unanimously ratified a new collective bargaining agreement after more than two years of negotiations with EPA leaders. The milestone contract between the two parties will stay in place at least for the next four years. But AFGE Council President Marie Owens Powell said she is worried about changes coming sooner than that. “There is a midterm reopener, which will be in about two years,” Powell said. “The agency has made it clear they intend to open remote work and telework. So the fight is far from over.”
    (New EPA collective bargaining agreement - American Federation of Government Employees)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has temporarily paused all new enrollments in FSAFEDS. That is after a surge in fraudulent activity that has affected hundreds of federal employees’ flexible spending accounts. OPM said the pause comes out of an abundance of caution to try to prevent further fraud. The enrollment pause also applies to any current enrollees who experience a qualifying life event, like the birth of a child. FSAFEDS will retroactively adjust any elections based on qualifying life events after OPM resumes enrollment functionality. So far, OPM has not set a date for when the functionality will be restored.
  • House lawmakers are calling on the Defense Department to fully enact President Joe Biden’s policy on union organizing at military installations. In 2022, a White House task force asked the Defense Department to provide standardized guidelines for union organizers to access military bases. The lawmakers said the Defense Department has yet to implement the reforms that will improve access for union organizing of civilian workers. The 2024 defense policy bill requires the Defense Department to issue uniform guidelines for determining who can access DoD facilities and installations.
  • Vendors on the Schedules program at the General Services Administration now have their chance to improve the $46 billion acquisition vehicle. In a new request for information to all schedule vendors, GSA wants to know about the roadblocks preventing some contractors from meeting the minimum sales requirement. It also wants to know if vendors have a clear understanding of the responsibilities that come with being a multiple award schedule contractor. GSA requires vendors to have at least $25,000 in sales a year. In fiscal 2022, 47% of all schedules holders did not meet the sales minimum. GSA is asking for industry to submit answers to the RFI by June 21.
  • It’s official: Mail prices are going up this summer. An independent regulator approved the Postal Service’s plans to raise the price of a first-class Forever stamp from 68 to 73 cents on July 14. It’ll be the sixth increase of its kind since 2020. That is when USPS got approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission to set mail prices higher than the rate of inflation. The commission is warning USPS to make future pricing decisions carefully, citing lower mail volume and the agency’s uncertain financial future.
    (Order on price adjustments for first-class mail - Postal Regulatory Commission)

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