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Despite Promises, TSA Unions to Bargain Over Pay and Performance

April 1, 2011 at 2:46 PM | by | ()

When TSA announced plans to unionize its airport security workers, we worried that collective bargaining would be used to protect inefficient and bad apple workers from getting fired, and that disputes over pay would lead to strikes. In response, the agency repeatedly said that the unionization agreement would prohibit any bargaining over pay or performance. They even wrote that into the rules, which they then showed around to everyone.

Here's the agency making that promise in a TSA fact sheet. Here they are saying it again in a press release. Here agency officials got quoted on it in the New York Times. This CNN article again summarized TSA's promise: the agreement "precludes negotiations on security policies, pay, pensions and compensation, proficiency testing, job qualifications and discipline standards." TSA couldn't have been more clear, right? It was all right there in black and white. No collective bargaining over pay or performance.

Now TSA currently uses a "pay for performance" scale called PASS. It evaluates how well workers are doing and then rewards them. Here is an agency press release bragging about PASS and saying that it's the key to "keeping air travelers safe and the transportation network secure." PASS is the system that's supposed to be untouchable by unions.


Yet union leaders insist that even if PASS isn’t on the bargaining table, getting rid of it would remain job one. 'PASS is at the top of the list and always has been,' said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union... John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, agreed: 'PASS is number one and number two' on the priority list... 'That will be the main thing that we’ll attack.'

The article goes on to explain how unions "say they are not deterred" by the supposedly explicit ban on pay/performance bargaining. They'll bargain over what the ban means and, if that doesn't work, they'll use their collective power to go to lobby agency officials and Congress—which was exactly the concern over unionization in the first place.

It seems like everything having to do with TSA follows a very simple pattern. The agency wants to do something that's probably a bad idea, and so the public says "hey, that's probably bad idea." Then agency officials invent something that doesn't make any sense, and people say "hey, you just invented something that doesn't make any sense." Then TSA officials go ahead and do whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

[Photo: TSA]

Related Stories:
· Union leaders say that getting rid of PASS is their first priority [Washington Post]
· Travel News [Jaunted]
· Airport News [Jaunted]

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