NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The 2054 Chapter of American Federation of Government Employees held a protest outside their office today in North Little Rock to protest for better treatment of VA workers during the pandemic.
Chapter president Barbara Casanova said, “We want to be looked at equally to other hospitals and probably within the private sector who are have been given a lot of flexibility because all of us are risking our lives by taking care of individuals with the Covid.”
Casanova said she hopes that the Federal Government will pass the Heroes Act. Within that bill there’s a 25% increase in spending for disabled veterans aid.
Casanova also hopes that more personal protective equipment can be provided for VA workers, “We don’t feel as we are being protected it’s better than it was in the beginning but we’re still not having proper equipment.”
The AGFE wants fixes to sick leave for those VA workers too. Casanova said that there are some lower level employees who have run out of sick leave and when that happens they do not get paid. She said, “Disparately affecting a lot of our lower income employees particularly our nursing assistance and our clerks who have not acquired as much leave as registered nurses and other people.”
She just wants VA workers to be looked at in the same light as any other hospital worker, “We don’t think it’s too much to ask to take care of us.”
In response to this, the Department of Veterans Affairs said the following:
AFGE’s comments lack credibility considering that during the pandemic, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System employees have provided life-saving care to more than 353 COVID patients while adhering to safety practices that have limited its current COVID employee infection rate to 0.5 percent.
The pandemic tested America’s health care infrastructure like few events have in anyone’s living memory, and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System passed that test because it worked together as a team.
Union bosses should be praising this teamwork rather than trying to sow division.
In regards to the contract negotiations with the AFGE whether through its condemnation of the MISSION Act or its efforts to repeal the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, AFGE has consistently fought for the status quo and opposed attempts to make VA work better for Veterans and their families. It’s no surprise that AFGE has taken the same approach with its refusal to accept commonsense improvements to its collective bargaining agreement.
VA’s collective bargaining proposals, which have been negotiated for several months per AFGE-approved ground rules, are designed to ensure Veterans come first in all that we do, and we look forward to working with AFGE to achieve that goal.