Here’s the recording. Below that is a transcript and at the bottom is the video version. Go anywhere you get podcasts and subscribe to NTEU 66. The host of this podcast is 1st Vice President and Chief Steward of Submission Daniel Scharpenburg. The co-host is Submission Steward Nikki Transue. Joining us as a guest on this episode (and doing most of the talking) is Chapter President Shannon Ellis.
This transcript was typed by Submission Steward Carla York.
Daniel: Hello, I am Daniel, we are joined today, I am, I am joined today by my assistant Nikki and our and also by our chapter president, Shannon Ellis, and today we’re going to talk about, let me make sure I got this right, Clerical Position description consolidation. That is the correct terminology for this thing that is happening and what’s happening is clerks in submission are getting their jobs redefined and because they are getting their jobs redefined the agency has to have meetings with every single clerk, in submission so they’re having like it’s consistent meetings all this week and all next week, and the union gets to attend those so we are, So, we are getting to see employees asking lots of questions and we are at times getting to see employees panicking and we are trying to help them through the process. An aspect of this though is these new positions are vague, and because they are vague that makes us uncomfortable somewhere along the lines of between uncomfortable and suspicious, we like very clear communication and very clear languages is what we prefer of course, so, and my opinion is that a lot of what’s going to happen in this new situation has been happening already and there’re doing this to make it all official and all legal. I know, I talked to some data conversion employees yesterday and they were new this year and they came in as DCO employees and they did not go to do their jobs right away, rather they were sent to RCO instead and they did that for what seemed a very long time before they actually got to train on their jobs, and I think that is essentially what we see happening here. So, I want to give Nikki and Shannon the opportunity to say hello.
Shannon: Hello, thank you for having me today.
Daniel: okay so um, Shannon can you tell us what your perception of what is happening here?
Shannon: Right, as Daniel stated there is very little we really know about this consolidation, what we were informed was HCO went in and there were over 66 clerical position descriptions, and so when ever the agency was hiring trying to hire employees for submission processing, they were having to put out 66 different position announcements, and so HCO went out and decided to take these 66 positions and consolidate them down to 3 (three), U, what would happen the thought behind this is, that what will happen, is that they post one position for a clerk and based on the applicants skills that they bring in, they would be, the agency would then be able to place that employee, that new hire, in any department in any operation that they felt their skills would work. Of course, as Daniel said, one of the concerns about doing this is 1(one), you have no idea if they’re taking into consideration all the skills that the employees are bringing, you know you could end up if for say a lot of employees in files, you could end up in files and you have a lot of computer background and now you are locked into files until they(the agency) determines they need you somewhere else. Like you said Daniel there is so many questions around this and so few answers, that every employee should be concerned about this. Everybody that’s impacted most people didn’t realize that a Data Transcriber is now a clerk, it has opened a lot of questions, we’ve elevated many questions and we can go through some of them today. We have elevated them, and management doesn’t have the answers or cannot provide the answers
Daniel: My understanding is that a lot of these at least in DCO, a lot of these people didn’t know they were getting their jobs changed and they just see a 5081 suddenly, or is that what it is?
Daniel: SF-50 (sorry) they see an SF-50 suddenly that says my job is changing, what?
Daniel: Because nobody told them and of course they are having the meetings now. But it is jarring to get that notification and your manager hasn’t said a word to you and your manager you think probably knows this is happening, right? So why aren’t they not telling us.
Shannon: In fact, we know that the actual position descriptions were signed off by HCO and the agency in April. And according to the consolidation and the 7114 meetings they this was supposed to be started back in August, on August 1st and what was happening is HCO finished writing all this up and then they started putting in PAR actions to change these employees, well employees were getting SF-50s starting back on August 1st and they had no idea this was coming and so now they are in a mad rush to get these employees to sign the new agreements under the new CJE’s under these new positions, so that’s what the big rush is because employees are already being told
Daniel: Right, right well and presumably as soon as they had the first meeting everyone like starting talking about it
Daniel: So, we asked questions like okay can the agency just move me from my area to another area without my consent, and what if they move me to another area that has mandatory overtime am, I suddenly having to work mandatory overtime? We were not able to get a clear answer to that and that is the kind of thing we are worried about is exactly like what if, but especially I worry about it for the new people but I worry about it more for people who have been here 20 years, and there really comfortable and really happy in what they do, and they really like their job and maybe they like getting laid off and we have concerns that this will impact this as well, so that’s who I am really worried about is the person who has been here 20 years and likes what they do and suddenly they have to go do something totally different.
Shannon: Right, if you read the position descriptions and we encourage all employees to get out there and get the position descriptions if this impacts you in submission processing and it should be impacting every submission processing employee if you go out, get, don’t only ask for it, if you are a grade 3 don’t only just get the PD the position description for a grade 3, get it for the 3, the 4, and the 5, because one of the biggest things that we are noticing on these position descriptions is that they all have a lot of technical listed as your normal job, the difference is just a couple words, a grade 3 it may state that with assistance you will do certain technical jobs. With a grade 4 on occasion
Shannon: or sometimes you will do this technical work, and as a grade 5 you are expected to do this technical work. Well our issue is, that it would appear based on these position descriptions that they’re just giving every clerk the same duties, whether you have done these in the past you could be asked to do technical duties which would include computer work and you may have never touched a computer and no desire to do that and now all of a sudden you could be asked to do this, when you are reading through these position descriptions take a highlighter and highlight the jobs that where it states where you may occasionally do this and or you will rarely do this, because one of the most important things you can do as an employee, is know what is required of you because if they give you jobs that are higher grade of duties and you do that more than 25% of your time that is now you are entitled to get the higher paid grade for that time you were doing it. So, track the jobs you do and how much time spend doing these jobs and know what you are expected to do. One of the other things Daniel that we want the employees to understand is that there is concern, one of the questions that we had, was we have a few not many we have grade 2 clerks clerical positions this initiative effects 3 campuses, so it is not just Kansas City, but we have grade 2 clerks in the campus and on other campuses, yet there is no PD for a grade 2. There is also areas that have career ladders, I believe Data Transcribers I believe are one of those, where they have a career ladder where it is a 3, 4, 5 or at least a 4, 5. There is no career ladder on here it is just a grade 5, it is just a grade 5 so what we are being told is if right now you are a 3 you will remain a 3 and go under a 3 in the new series and the new position description, that if you’re a 4 you will go to a 4, if you are a 5 you will go to a 5. So, what happens to these employees that were entitled to be a grade 5 at the end of this year? So, there’s that we are not getting those answers yet.
Daniel: Ya, would you say an employee that is currently a grade 3 or 4 data transcriber should come to us and we should try to help them?
Shannon: Well we cant unless they are doing a higher grade work, its just like sitting in as a lead or covering or doing a special detail, where it is higher grade duties, so if you are doing higher grade of duties track it, because no body else is going to track this for you, track it, and then give it to NTEU so we can make sure we can assist you on getting that pay, also make sure you do a self-evaluation at the end of the year. Track all this stuff, put it in your self-evaluation, you are entitled the contract allows you 4 hours one time to go train on how to do those self-evaluation, take advantage of that, do a self-evaluation make sure you document everything you’re doing at a higher grade.
Daniel: Those are a pain so people don’t do them but I really recommend it, and not just out side of this, like for this I think it is really important if you go to another area and you are doing duties that are a higher grade than what you normally do, if they keep you there a long time you have a strong case for a higher grade, but in addition I always recommend a self-evaluation, because it has happened more than one an employee comes to me and says my evaluation is really low for no reason, it dropped, my work didn’t change I don’t know why they dropped me. I always ask did you do a self eval? Because if you didn’t, I’ll fight for you, but I am not going to win, if I don’t have that, that’s saying to much but its like going to a gun fight without any bullets, if you don’t have a self eval, it is very hard for me to win that case. And if you have a self eval that is the tool we need to win it. So even if this is not part of you, you should still consider doing a self eval because it is a way to protect yourself, and the truth is we want to trust our managers to evaluate our managers fairly and around here your manager could just change, and someone who doesn’t know you could write your evaluation and that could be a very frustrating thing. So.
Shannon: That is a huge problem with this.
Daniel: Right, for sure ya especially like if I am a DCO employee and I go to RCO for six months and then I come back to DCO, whose writing my evaluation, are they going to do a good job writing my evaluation? What if this manager likes me and cares about me and wants me to do well, this manager doesn’t like me I don’t know.
Shannon: Or if it something that you have never done before. So quickly I do want to touch on something that very few managers throughout the 7114 meetings um touched on which is, if you are changing under a new position description and series which the majority of you will be. You will not be evaluated for the first 60 days from the time you fill out and sign the form 6774 which is the receipt of the new CJE’s, so they have to give you the new CJE’s you sign off on them that you have received them and then at that point the clock starts ticking. So, for 60 days you should not be rated on this so know your rights, I mean the most important document you could ever have in your career with the internal revenue service is the NATIONAL AGREEMENT. Know what’s in there because there is all kinds of things that will protect you on this. So, I just want to make sure that you do understand if they start evaluating you, they start trying to hold it against you, you need to push back and you need to let NTEU immediately.
Daniel: Do their manager have to give them a National Agreement if they ask?
Shannon: All employees are entitled to a National Agreement and managers are responsible to hand them out.
Daniel: Okay if you don’t have a National Agreement it is a white book and it says National Agreement on it. Ask your manager to give you one and they are supposed to, and if you get push back on that give us a call, give us a call and well figure it out, you should though they’re usually pretty good about that.
Shannon: Now to touch a bit more on moving people around, Daniel hit some very solid points on whether or not we’d be required to do the overtime, the mandatory overtime in other areas, because once you become trained in an area now management can use the statement of, that we have required overtime in Document Perfection or something, and so we’re gonna mandate that everybody that has training can move over there, we are seeing a little bit now. Management definitely understand that management has the right to assign work. But where it changes and becomes more difficult is if they move you outside of the department that you are working in. If you are moved from RCO to ICO then we need to know about it, because it requires talking to NTEU making sure you are getting the training you needed, who is going to be evaluating you, who are you reporting to now, there is all kinds of questions. Some of our concerns was, we already have management contacting us, contacting NTEU telling us they’re moving employees because work is slowing down in certain areas and you’re being moved to areas where the work is piling up. We understand that we work through with management the best we can to try to impact the employees the least amount as possible. We’re worried now that this document this changing of the position description and series will now eliminate us from being able to be notified and help make sure the employees are not harmed by moving them from area to area. So, we are already seeing some of it, but we’re worried now like you said at the beginning of this that if I am an employee on a seasonal agreement and my season ends in 6 months, I no longer get laid off because they still have work under my PD, they still have work in other areas. So, we are concerned about all this, doesn’t mean it is going to happen, but these are the questions we have, and you should be asking as an employee. So also, we asked on the flip side of the overtime if I am trained in that area, and if I don’t want to do overtime in files now can I go do it in another area that I am trained in, and that is some of the things that we need to know, because if an employee is going to be forced to work somewhere then why can’t they voluntary work it too.
Daniel: Our hope is, our wish is that if they are going to make it more flexible for the agency maybe they can make it more flexible for the employees too. I think I can see where this can be good for people that really don’t want it be seasonal that really want to work the whole year, although we are not in a normal year and I don’t think anyone is getting laid off now, and in fact it could be some time before we have a normal year again but someday we do expect seasonal lay offs to happen and we may see well, where your area is out of work but we are not going to lay you off you are going somewhere else. What will happen to people who really want to get laid off, I don’t know, I know they can apply for hardships to get laid off, but we all know what that means so that means I hope you are not relaying on unemployment when your laid off because the agency is not going to help you get unemployment and unemployment is going be like you could have stayed at work. So that those people that really love being seasonal and rely on it I feel like they are really going to be harmed, I feel like they are not going to be able to do what they used to do. That said right now it seems like they can’t do what they used to do, but when things stabilize, if things stabilize, they still won’t be able to do what they want to, and that we don’t really like that, but at the same time we do understand if you walk on the submission floor, they know the amount of work here is out of control. So, the agency wants to move people around and we do understand that espeally when there is bottle necks, I know there was a point where there was a whole lot of work in RCO, and there was so much that it wasn’t coming through because it was backed up so much. We don’t want clogs in the pipeline we understand that, I am hoping that the agency makes it voluntary for people to move to other areas, and it could be good for your career to move if you want to especially if you want to rise at the IRS well it is good to know a lot of things, but we just have a lot of concerns because it is so vague and there is so many questions still out there about how it is going to work
Shannon: I am sure there are some positive things that could come from this, the ability to work in any department because you are trained, that is one. The fact that they should not be able to tell you now that because a detail happens to be in a different series that you are not eligible and the only thing you can do is gain experience that, all of that stuff should be taken off the table now so there are some good things that should come from this. We are hoping that employees will be able to track the higher-grade duties they are working and that you guys keep us informed because you are doing the work, you’re in the area you’re the only ones that can come to NTEU and elevate the concerns and the issues that are happening, as this new position description rolls out, this new series. I am going to give it now we ask that you email us at NTEU.firstname.lastname@example.org just use the subject in the subject line just put series 303 clerks or just clerks so we can identify immediately that, that it what it is, but elevate your questions let us know, because everything we’ve talked about today we have actually already elevated to the attorneys at national so we’re hoping that we’re sheading some light on some of the things that were not initially brought to their attention when the IRS notice us on this
Daniel: Ya,if they put you in a new position and you don’t get trained, we have to rely on you to tell us, there is not a chance that management is going to tell us, hey we are moving these people and we are not training them at all. Like they are not going to tell us that, so we are only going to know if we hear from you. I worry about people getting inadequate training and then being measured, that’s really my biggest concern, like if you’re not measured it matters a little bit less if your training is not good, but it still matters, but if your measured and your training is not good “SIGH”, it is bad news
Shannon: And we are already hearing this at the 7114 meetings, that the employees are already asking when are they going to get good training, so there is already concern everywhere on campus but particularly in submission processing, but because the workload is so heavy that they are running through training with just pieces of paper, so just keep us informed we really want to make sure you guys know that you are the voice, the eyes, and ears of this campus we need to know from everybody what is going on the campus, they don’t necessarily like NTEU coming down to your areas, and there is some areas we are restricted from being in without having special permissions so it is very important that you keep us posted
Daniel: Ya when every I go watch the covid cleanings there is some people that don’t like it, employees like it, but some other people don’t like it that I have seen. I believe that is it for today, we have a members meeting September 18th, look on our Facebook page for details for that we are doing that virtually, and then directly following we are having an in-person members picnic at Penn Valley Park from 1 to 4 on September 18th.
Shannon: we have labor recognition week coming up, and we always do some type of membership appreciation and with covid it has been really, really difficult so we absolutely are going to make this happen this year social distancing will be followed since we will be outdoors, food prep will be individually boxed and so we are taking all the precautions and we want to see our members and their immediately families, come join us come meet us, there is a lot of members out there that we haven’t face to face met yet.
Daniel: we are very excited about it, bring your spouse or significant other, bring your kids you can bring your pets if you want
Shannon: There is a dog park down the road
Daniel: I am excited you are going to get to meet my (4) four kids, so that will be a good time (maybe)
Shannon: it will be fun, we are going to have fun we are going to have games, we are going to have music, we are going to do it up right, so I hope you guys join us
Nikki: face painting, balloon art
Daniel: In the past, the chapter has had people line up and get sandwiches like here in the building and we are not comfortable doing that, it would tough be hard to make the argument to the agency hey what you are doing is not safe and have a gathering here so that’s why we are doing it outdoors. We can be a community if we are together, whereas if somebody lines up and gets a sandwich and leaves that is not really community building and I want us to be a community
Nikki: Plus, I mean in the past it seemed so impersonal, and I know with this I feel that it is going to bring moral together and have a chance to have fun
Shannon: we are ready for that, and look on Facebook and watch around the campus for additional things we will be doing through out the week for labor recognition as it gets closer, we will be trying to get in a little one on one time with the chapter president or something maybe some Q&A’s so we are absolutely excited maybe some game for our virtual and for employees on campus, so look for the labor recognition week events that is for all employees, and the members only luncheon on the 18th after our general membership meeting
Daniel: Thank you for taking the time to listen to us today and have a great day everybody, we will probably have another we may have more episodes about this consolidation because it is affecting so many people, we’ll see, but thank you for listing and have a good day
Shannon: Thank You