Q&A regarding new CBA

Due to some misinformation intentionally being sent to Border Patrol employees about the updated collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the union has created a list of questions and answers to address the misconceptions. As new questions pop up, we’ll update them below.

  1. Will Del Rio Sector now have a detail management team (DMT)?

    Although it is not called a DMT, there are procedures in the CBA that will govern how details and collateral duties are assigned. The two assignments will fall into two categories: it is an assignment that any employee can do, or the assignment requires certain skills/abilities. If the assignment is something that any agent can do – including assignments for which the agency will train you – then it will be assigned by seniority. For example, VMO assignments generally don’t have any prerequisite skills, so it would be assigned by seniority – same thing for ATVs, because the agency will teach you how to ride an ATV.

    The other category covers details and collateral duties that need you to already be capable of performing certain functions. For example, if STRATCOMM needs someone with video editing skills, then they will solicit applicants via memos or resumes, perhaps with an interview, to determine who is best qualified. The agency will be required to explain what skills/abilities are needed in the solicitation and how they will be weighted.

  2. Is there a cool-down period between details?

    Yes, a cool-down period lasts as long as the length of the detail, up to a maximum of one year. A six-month detail has a six-month cool-down period, a one-year detail has a one-year cool-down period, while a three-year detail also has a one-year cool-down period.

  3. How will the agency keep track of who is interested in which detail or collateral duty?

    We haven’t sorted out the procedure yet, but it will likely involve agents submitting a “wish list” of sorts, indicating what details or collateral duties they are interested in, or perhaps the agency may solicit applicants as each detail and collateral duty becomes available.

  4. Won’t senior agents get all the holidays on the master leave schedule?

    No, the new process is modeled after what other sectors have successfully been doing for years. It involves a round robin-type or draft process, which spreads holidays out more. Employees will be arranged in order of seniority and their requested periods of annual leave will be arranged in order of preference. Each employee will be granted their first available leave choice and then move to the next employee on the list. After moving from the most senior employee down to the most junior employee, the list will start over again with the most senior employee and will continue to move through the list until all leave requests have been considered or there are no more available periods of time.

    Due to the breakdown of the two six-month leave periods (Oct – Mar / Apr – Sep), four of the major holidays are within the first period (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break), while the Fourth of July and the summer leave periods are contained in the second. This provides more opportunities for the leave to be distributed more evenly, without allowing any group of agents to retain all of the more-desired leave periods.

  5. Why did you change the master leave process?

    Problems with the master leave schedule were some of the most regularly heard complaints from employees because of how subjective the previous process is. We would see differences in the way leave was assigned from sector to sector, station to station, and sometimes supervisor to supervisor on the same shift. This stemmed from supervisors being left to figure out on their own how to weigh the four factors (leave balance, school-aged children, received the leave last year, and seniority), so there was never any consistency.

    There is no way to accommodate everyone’s leave requests, but this process will create an objective process that can easily be reproduced when questions arise regarding why someone got a particular week off while also spreading out the leave more equitably than before.

  6. Will the length of the shift bid periods change now?

    Station management still retains the ability to choose the length of shift bid periods and so far we have not heard of any stations considering changing the length of the shift bid periods. For those locations which have six-month periods, stations may adjust them to line up with master leave periods, which will mean adjusting the length of an upcoming rotation to match with the master leave periods.

  7. Can employees now swap their regular days off duty?

    Yes. Although this sounds like something everyone can already do, the union has encountered supervisors and managers who, for whatever reason, felt that they could not allow days off to be swapped. The updated CBA now permits that.

  8. How will regular days off duty be assigned? I’m being told that junior employees will never get weekends or the days they want. If I have a special event to attend, how do I request that day off to make sure I get it?

    Days off will be assigned by seniority, as requested by employees. Under the current CBA, stations usually already use seniority, but in some locations, some supervisors would assign regular days off duty in a seemingly random fashion.

    Management has always had and will continue to have the discretion to accommodate an employee without bumping an agent who is senior to the employee in order to ensure that junior employees who have special events will be able to take that time off. In other words, an employee cannot be bumped, but management has the discretion and may make the adjustment necessary to grant time off for employees.

  9. Did the union agree to allow the length of detail to be increased to 60 days in order to get beards?

    No, the length of details has not been increased. The updated CBA includes the same 35-day maximum for details unless an employee volunteers for a longer period.

  10. Now that we can have beards, goatees, and other facial hair, does this mean I can shave every other day?

    No, employees who are not actively attempting to grow a beard or other type of facial hair must report to work with an otherwise cleanly shaven face.

  11. What are the rules for growing a beard, goatee, or other facial hair?

    Facial hair needs to be neatly trimmed, clean, and well-groomed. Beards cannot be patchy or have spotty clumps of facial hair (unless it’s the result of a scar). It cannot be ragged. Ungroomed beard stubble is not considered neat, clean, and professional. Facial hair will not be worn in any “extreme or unconventional styles.”

    The bulk of the beard (the distance that the mass of facial hair protrudes from the skin of the face) shall not exceed one half of an inch unless required to be longer for medical or religious reasons. That means if you stick a ruler into your beard, goatee, or other facial hair, it can’t be deeper than a half-inch.

  12. If I currently have a shaving waiver, do I need to keep renewing it?

    If your current shaving waiver permits hair to be longer than a half-inch, then yes, you will need to continue to get a shaving waiver. However, if your waiver requires you to keep your hair at a half-inch or shorter, then no, you can grow facial hair like everyone else, up to a half-inch.

  13. Why didn’t the union bargain for GS-13s and FLSA?

    Rumors are floating around amongst employees that the union failed to negotiate for GS-13s or FLSA, but that’s not how any of this works – it's not legal. Unions for federal employees cannot bargain over pay and benefits, such as pay differentials, retirement, and leave – we get what Congress provides for us.

    However, through our lobbying efforts, the union has been successful in getting members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to sponsor legislature reauthorizing BPAs to earn FLSA. Those bills, of course, need to be passed in both chambers of Congress, so there exists additional work to do.

    Regarding GS-13s, we have been working with the current administration to allow for higher-graded positions within the agency. Just like with FLSA, it is illegal for the agency to bargain over grade increases because that is strictly the responsibility of OPM and the agency. The union continues to work with the agency to identify additional roles and responsibilities which would permit BPAs to be classified at a higher grade. As with everything in the federal government, nothing moves quickly, so the work continues.

  14. What happened to alternative work schedules (AWS)?

    OPM determined that under BPAPRA, alternative work schedules are not allowed; the union obviously disagreed. AWS was included as part of a technical amendment in Congress at the end of 2018, but a member of Congress pulled the bill at the last second due to a misunderstanding regarding what the bill provided. AWS is back in Congress as part of another technical amendment currently working through Congress to provide for AWS and other changes to BPAPRA.

  15. Where can we get a copy of the updated CBA?

    We don’t have a fully signed copy that can be published on the internet (we're waiting for final copies of a couple of appendices), but a copy of the agreement can be found by searching for it on the agency’s intranet.

  16. Why didn’t the union ask for my opinion regarding the changes to the CBA?

    The union solicited input from members when a draft copy of proposals for the CBA was being put together in 2010-2012. Although we wish we could get input from every single member, the bargaining process is unfortunately fluid and convoluted, making it difficult to solicit input on an ongoing basis while negotiations are taking place. Using the information provided to us by members, we did our best to accommodate the interests of the greatest number of members as possible.

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