National President Dougan and VA Council President Redding Visit Atlanta VA Medical Center, CBOCísTuesday, March 8, 2011
(National Federation of Federal Employees)
Last week, NFFE National President William R. Dougan and VA Council President Robert Redding visited NFFE Local 2102, representing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals at the Atlanta VA Medical Center and surrounding Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC).
Hosting a series of lunch-and-learns, Dougan spoke with rank and file VA employees about a number of topics, such labor-management relations forums, the federal pay freeze, and government shutdowns. Employees were particularly interested in the potential for a government shutdown, and what impact it could have on healthcare workers and other federal jobs. Though the possibility of a shutdown is now higher than it has been since the 1990ís, there is still time for Congress to forge an agreement and ensure that our veterans are getting the care they need.
Speaking with health professionals at the main hospital, the issue of greatest concern was the two-year federal pay freeze. Many physicians, inundated by tens of thousands of dollars in medical school debt, are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. Though they love serving Americanís wounded warriors, they say stagnant paychecks and mounting bills are forcing them to consider working outside the VA.
ďThis is a shame,Ē said Redding. ďOur Physicians and specialists want to work for the VA and serve our veterans. They came here to work with Veterans and I hope that those inside the beltway understand the effects of pay freezes and threats of a government shutdown have on the workforce.Ē
Later in the week, Dougan and Redding visited the Lawrenceville and Southpoint CBOCís to discuss agency and workplace issues with employees. They heard from employees regarding pay, working conditions and a number of representational issues impacting VA staff at their facilities. At South point, President Dougan discussed the conversion of NFFE social workers from Title-5 employees to Hybrid-Title 38 employees. Of particular concern was ambiguity of the new qualification standards and boarding process related to the transition.
On the final day of the trip, the Local 2102 Executive Board held a meeting to discuss the weekís events and plan a way forward to assist the hard working rank and file members of the Local. Although the trip did not constitute a formal membership drive, enthusiasm by employees attending the meetings resulted in dozens of new members for the Local.