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NTEU Calls for Vaccine Requirement for Port Users

In a Sunday letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas, NTEU National President Reardon urged the administration to require individuals who travel through the ports of entry to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

DHS needs to take every possible step to protect the frontline CBP workforce. Requiring that all individuals who come into a port of entry be vaccinated will make the OFO workplace safer for everyone.

“Despite an unprecedented global pandemic, those traveling through our ports of entry have no such vaccine requirement. This poses a serious threat to the health and safety of CBP employees,” the letter states.

NTEU also went public, issuing a press release calling for the mandate on all those who are processed by OFO employees at airports, sea ports and land ports of entry, not just the newly-announced requirement for foreign nationals flying to the U.S.

NTEU Submits Demand to Bargain Implementation of Vaccine Mandate

After the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued agency guidance for the vaccination mandate, NTEU sent CBP a demand to bargain its implementation.

While DHS has not yet announced any specifics of its vaccination program, NTEU expects to bargain issues such as: duty, travel and recovery time associated with getting vaccinated; vaccine options; reasonable accommodation procedures for those seeking exemption from the vaccine mandate on medical or religious grounds, including employees’ status while their accommodation requests are pending; and, the impact the vaccine mandate will have on workplace reintegration, among other things.

For additional information on the vaccine mandate, check out the frequently-asked questions (FAQs) page on NTEU’s website. The FAQs are regularly updated and include information on reasonable accommodation, documentation and much more.

National Grievance on Hazardous Duty Pay Could Result in Back Pay

Last year NTEU filed a national grievance concerning CBP’s decision to not pay either hazardous duty or environmental differential pay to those employees exposed to COVID-19 because of their work for the agency. The agency denied the grievance and we invoked arbitration.

After defeating the agency’s attempts to delay the case, NTEU presented its case to the arbitrator, most recently on Monday of this week.

NTEU argued that because OFO employees regularly interact with members of the public at every port of entry, they deserve a higher pay that reflects the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. We further argued that the personal protective equipment provided by CBP did not and does not sufficiently mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection while in duty status.

A decision from the arbitrator is expected in December. If NTEU’s grievance succeeds, the case could result in back pay for eligible employees.

TDY to Texas Underway

About 150 CBPOs from ports around the country volunteered for a 30-day TDY to Del Rio, Texas, where a huge number of people, mostly from Haiti, have crossed the border. Their duties include intake of arriving noncitizens, safety and oversight of people in custody and case processing.

The schedules may require working on various shifts, holidays, weekends, AWS and overtime. It is possible the TDY could be extended beyond the initial 30 days.

Preclearance Employees Have Additional Vaccination Choice

In addition to the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States, employees in preclearance locations have a fourth option. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, is also an option for federal employees.

CR Includes Critical CBP Funding

The House has passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through Dec. 3. The CR includes funding for CBP to replace user fee shortfalls caused by the pandemic. With the start of the new fiscal year just over a week away, Congress must act to keep government agencies funded. The bill faces a rocky future in the Senate, however, because it includes a provision to suspend the debt limit through December of 2022.

NTEU’s Mission: To organize federal employees to work together to ensure that every federal employee is treated with dignity and respect. The NTEU CBP Update is a periodic electronic newsletter published by the National Treasury Employees Union for NTEU members at CBP.

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