Update to Backscatter/VACIS health concerns

Yesterday, the Union advised employees of eight confirmed cases of cancer among agents who have been assigned to perform Backscatter/VACIS duties in the El Paso Sector. After seeing NBPC’s advisory, a former Border Patrol employee also assigned to perform Backscatter duties advised us that he is afflicted with another type of cancer, Myxoid Liposarcoma. None of the aforementioned employees were genetically predisposed to their respective diagnoses. The eight confirmed cases we are aware of currently only consist of male employees, four of which reside in El Paso County and 4 of which reside in Dona Ana County. In 2014, El Paso County, Texas, reported a thyroid cancer incidence rate for males at 7.6 persons diagnosed with the disease for every 100,000 people. In 2014, Dona Ana County, New Mexico, reported a thyroid cancer incidence rate for males at 6.0 persons diagnosed with the disease for every 100,000 people.

NBPC urges Border Patrol agents who have been assigned to perform those duties to seek guidance from their personal physician. Employees should provide the physician with this advisory, a summary of his or her job duties, and any non-sensitive information on the VACIS/Backscatter, specifically the radioactive properties they bear. Employees should submit a completed CA-2 if cancer or any other medical condition is found and linked to their employment along with a copy of the medical report or diagnosis. For more information, refer to Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation, Publication CA-810, Chapter 2-3. Union representatives can assist employees with their Workers’ Compensation claims. If your physician requests further details regarding the equipment used, you can refer to ZBV and AS and E on this link.

We are reviewing data that has been provided by the agency and are requesting more information as additional employees step forward. Once we have received, reviewed, and analyzed all of the information requested, we will provide members with another update.

Agents should share any concerns about operating the Backscatter/VACIS with management, and if ordered to use the equipment, inform them of the concerns involving their health and well-being prior to being ordered to operate the Backscatter/VACIS. If you are still ordered to operate them, please contact a Union Representative immediately. OSHA states that under certain circumstances workers have the right to refuse dangerous work. For employees to be protected under this doctrine certain criteria must be met. For more information visit https://www.osha.gov/right-to-refuse.html.

Health concerns related to Backscatter and VACIS

The Union has learned that there are at least eight confirmed cases of cancer (seven Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma and one Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma) among agents who have primarily been detailed to perform Backscatter/VACIS duties at Border Patrol Checkpoints in the El Paso Sector.

We are reviewing data that has been provided by the agency; however, we urge Border Patrol agents who have been assigned to perform those duties to seek guidance from their personal medical doctor and submit a completed CA-2 if cancer or any other medical condition is found and linked to work. Once we have received, reviewed, and analyzed all of the information requested from the Agency, we will be in a better position to offer instruction on how to proceed further. Agents should share any concerns about operating the Backscatter/VACIS with management, and if ordered to do so, inform them of the concerns involving their health and well-being prior to being ordered to operate the Backscatter/VACIS. If you are still ordered to operate them after explaining this to your supervisor, please contact a Union Representative immediately.

Unfortunately, El Paso Sector and OBP Headquarters management have known about this issue for a significant period of time and they have not addressed it, nor, to our knowledge, have Border Patrol agents nationwide been advised of the issue.

Physical Fitness Program reinstated at EGS

By now you may have heard that the Physical Fitness Program (PFP) has been reinstated at EGS after having been suspended last year. Here’s a brief rundown of what happened:

Local 2366 filed a Step I grievance against EGS management alleging they violated a memorandum of understanding between the agency and the union which expanded the PFP to all Border Patrol sectors nationwide. As part of the grievance, the union proposed some arrangements that would allow EGS employees to participate in the PFP while addressing the agency’s manpower-related concerns. Specifically, we suggested that agents assigned to certain assignments relatively close to the station could be allowed to work out after they have been relieved along with those assigned to in-station assignments and details. EGS management said our claims were without merit and denied the grievance.

The union then filed a Step II grievance with Chief Hudak and we eventually came to an agreement with the agency that would allow EGS employees to work out at the end of their shift provided there is no other work to do and they have been relieved by the oncoming shift.

As the program gets back into gear, we ask that everyone try to be flexible as both bargaining unit employees and managers get used to it again. If there is work to do, employees will not be allowed to work out and management will simply have to explain why a particular workout is canceled. Basically, if a workout will unduly interfere with operations, then it’s not going to happen. Keep in mind there will be weeks during which you get to work out all three hours and there will be busy weeks with zero workouts.

If you have any problems, find out why the workout was canceled – if it doesn’t sound right, get with a steward and it will be addressed.

Remember: the PFP is a very important benefit meant to help all of us stay fit. Make sure you follow the rules and don't give the agency any reason to believe the program is being abused.

PTIP suspension update

Local 2366 met with Del Rio Sector management to discuss the suspension of the PTIP at multiple stations.

The agency's investigation is ongoing so they are not yet able to disclose the audit/investigation results, but the union was notified that PAICs have been provided with the information relevant to their respective stations.

If you feel that you were improperly swept up in the suspension of the program you may approach your station's management to discuss your particular situation. Vanpools which were in compliance with the policy were allowed to continue with the program and the union was told that PAICs will have the specifics for each person and can discuss individual employee concerns.

2017 National Border Patrol Council national committee election results

Below are the results of the 2017 election for the national committee of the National Border Patrol Council.

Congratulations to everyone!

President: Brandon Judd
Executive Vice President: Paul Perez
Secretary: Rob Russell
Treasurer: Bud Tuffly
Vice President, Northern: Eric Sparkman
Vice President, Southwest: Art Del Cueto
Vice President, Southeast: Albert Trevino
Vice President at Large: Jon Anfinsen
Vice President at Large: Mike Egerton
Vice President at Large: Hector Garza
Vice President at Large: Christopher Kraus

Suspension of PTIP at DRT stations

Several employees at CAR, EGS, and UVA were notified of the suspension of the PTIP over the past two weeks. The agency has conducted an audit and they believe they have evidence that the directive was not being properly followed.

Section 9.1 of the PTIP directive requires a six-month suspension from the program if it is determined an employee failed to abide by the requirements of the directive. However, no one has been provided with specific information or allegations. The Union has filed a request for information so that we can review the audit and investigate the claims that some people may have been improperly suspended from the program.

In the meantime, if you have information you believe may prove that you were properly following the program, contact your respective lead steward.

CBP prepares for hiring surge

CBP has been assigned the difficult task of hiring an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents, while trying to remain competitive when compared to ICE and other law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, CBP is requesting the authority to take several actions related to hiring, including modifying the way background checks are performed and waiving polygraphs for certain people including military veterans and current law enforcement.

Click here to read the entire memorandum.

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