M E M O R A N D U M
February 12 2017
TO: CBP Chapter Presidents
RE: CBP – NTEU Efforts on Behalf of CBP Technicians
SUMMARY: NTEU is fighting for the CBP Technicians on three important issues.
I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of NTEU’s efforts on behalf of CBP Technicians in three important areas.
First, you were previously advised that NTEU conducted a survey of the Technicians to determine their interest in being converted to coverage under COPRA (Customs Officer Pay Reform Act). Participation in the survey was high and nearly 90% of those who responded supported being put under COPRA. The survey results revealed that, if this can be accomplished, Technicians would benefit from COPRA’s higher rate of overtime pay and its higher night differential and Sunday premium pay rates. A transition to COPRA coverage would mean that some or all of Technicians’ overtime earnings would count towards their retirement annuities. A conversion to COPRA coverage would likewise provide Technicians access to FLAP awards, which our survey results indicated would benefit a notable number of Technicians. For these reasons and for those discussed below in relation to a national grievance that NTEU has filed on behalf of the Technicians, I have decided to approach CBP and request that it place Technicians under COPRA.
Second, as you were also previously advised, I requested that former Commissioner Kerlikowske authorize an update of the Technicians’ PD after which CBP would conduct a classification review of the Technician position to see if it supports an upgrade to a GS-9. The Technician position description was last updated in 2005 and since then CBP has added many additional duties and responsibilities to the job. I am pleased to report that CBP has agreed to update the PD and to perform the requested classification review on the new position description.
Lastly, NTEU continues to press CBP on finalizing the back pay remedy it owes as a result of national grievances that NTEU filed on behalf of the Technicians concerning CBP’s failure to pay CBP Technicians appropriate premium pay for performing plant or animal inspectional work pursuant to APHIS Directive 402.3. As I previously informed you, CBP has completed its back pay calculations and it will issue over $2 million in back pay to 153 Technicians who were not paid appropriately under the Directive. A claims process will follow through which Technicians can seek additional compensation that they believe to be owed. The delay in CBP’s issuance of back payments is due to its belief that some Technicians were paid premium pay during the grievance period that was not properly owed. NTEU’s view is that if CBP made any pay errors that led to any overpayments of premium pay, those errors are CBP’s fault and it should forgive any money it believes to be owed. CBP’s deliberations on how to proceed continue and I am hopeful that they will conclude soon. If CBP refuses to waive the purported overpayments, NTEU stands ready to challenge them through an administrative process. Once we know how things will proceed, back payments will issue. I will let you know when this occurs.
I want to emphasize that, in contrast to the APHIS Directive, an employee’s entitlement to overtime pay under COPRA does not depend on the kind of work performed. Accordingly, COPRA is much easier to administer both in terms of determining who is entitled to overtime pay and in resolving overtime-related grievances. Thus, a transition of Technicians to COPRA would likely mean fewer pay errors and, by comparison, easier resolution of errors that occur than under the current scheme.
Since CBP has the authority to provide COPRA coverage for the Technicians, NTEU is hopeful that CBP will consider this coverage for the Technicians. Putting the Technicians under the same premium pay system as the CBPOs and Agriculture Specialists would bring consistency to agency pay practices for employees involved in the frontline inspectional process. It would also be easier to administer for CBP when compared to applying the APHIS Directive, while also providing a well-deserved pay system for the Technicians.
As you can see, NTEU believes that the increasingly complicated work performed by the Technicians should be properly compensated both in terms of their regular rate of pay and their entitlement to the same overtime and premium pay rates that CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists enjoy. Please make sure that the Technicians you represent are aware of NTEU’s efforts on their behalf.
Anthony M. Reardon