AFGE charges DoD with unfair labor practices in upcoming network consolidation

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The Defense Department’s largest labor union is charging the Pentagon with engaging in unfair labor practices as part of its plan to consolidate more than 1,000 existing information technology workers from throughout DoD into the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The American Federation of Government Employees said on Tuesday that it had filed a formal complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. AFGE charged that DoD is in violation of federal labor laws because it did not consult with the union before it began to implement its plan to reassign employees from more than a dozen other “fourth estate” agencies to DISA.

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“The Department of Defense has clearly violated the law by failing to notify AFGE of this proposal and not allowing the union to provide our views and recommendations regarding these proposed changes and the impact they could have on the employees we represent,” David Cox, AFGE’s national president said in a statement.

As Federal News Network reported in April, DoD is planning to consolidate nearly $1 billion in IT spending and 1,200 positions under the DISA umbrella as part of what the Pentagon terms the Fourth Estate Network Optimization Initiative (4ENO). The department wants DISA to eventually become the single provider for “commodity IT” across all of the Defense agencies, and aims to save $170 million per year by eliminating redundant systems and networks.

Most of changes are expected to begin taking effect on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

AFGE officials said aside from what they’ve read in news articles, the only formal communication they’ve received from DoD was when officials at one of the fourth estate organizations, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), provided some details on the consolidation plan to local union leaders on Apr. 12.

Victor Matos, the president of AFGE Local 2846, said DCMA told the union the consolidation would mostly be an administrative change: The agency’s IT employees will continue to work in DCMA offices, but they and their supervisors would, on paper, become DISA employees.

The problem, he said, is that it’s unclear how and whether those administrative changes will impact employees’ collective bargaining rights — since, in that instance, the bargaining agreement is between AFGE and DCMA, not DISA.

“On October 1, they’re not going to be covered by any agreement that we know of, and they might not have any bargaining rights at all,” Matos said in an interview. “We just don’t have any information at all, and the agency has not been completely forthcoming on that.”

If those employees are indeed removed from the bargaining unit and not subject to any another contract, AFGE believes there would be practical implications for individual workers.

“One example is performance improvement plans,” Matos said. “If your performance starts to fall behind, you’re given the opportunity to correct those deficiencies, and under our DCMA contract you’re allowed 90 days to do that. By default, most agencies give 30 days, some are lucky to have 60 days. But when they lose their coverage under our bargaining agreement, they’re likely to revert to that 30 days.”

DCMA is one of the largest agencies that will be affected by the IT consolidation, according to DoD budget documents. But in all, 16 of them will begin paying DISA to handle their business IT and network infrastructure for them on a reimbursable basis beginning in fiscal 2020.

Other large organizations impacted by the changes include the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Health Agency and the Defense Commissary Agency, each of which will pay DISA upward of $100 million per year.

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