NTEU is fighting for the CBP Technicians on three important issues.
1 - 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, NTEU decided to approach CBP and request that it place Technicians under COPRA.
2 - NTEU 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.
3 - 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. 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.