EPA, employee union sign contract after years of disputes

EPA, employee union sign contract after years of disputes
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a major employee union signed an agreement Thursday after years of disputes. 

Both the EPA and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) praised the contract, saying that it provides significant rights for employees. 

The collective agreement includes allowing employees to have up to two days of telework per week, allowing the union to use conference rooms without agency approval and requires the agency to provide personal protective equipment and indoor air quality testing.

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The AFGE, which represents 7,500 EPA employees,  first announced that it had reached an agreement with the EPA on these points in June. 

“The agreed-upon articles include subjects important to our employees, including employee rights, leave, work schedules, and telework,”  said EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy: Smoke from wildfires has reached Europe | EPA postpones environmental justice training | UN report: Countries have failed to meet a single target to protect wildlife in last decade EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' MORE in a statement. 

AFGE National President Everett Kelley similarly expressed satisfaction with the contract. 

“I am extremely thankful for the hard work of AFGE members and our allies in Congress who helped put pressure on the EPA to do the right thing. This success was a group effort, and all involved should be proud,” Kelley said in a statement. 

Negotiations between the two sides have gone on for years and both sides have disagreed about how much of the union contract is up for review. 

In one major flashpoint last year, the EPA sought to implement a new contract for its employees without union agreement.

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In response, the AFGE filed an unfair labor practice charge against the EPA. In December, the EPA agreed to resume negotiations and the union withdrew the unfair labor practice charges. 

Wheeler, in his statement on Thursday, acknowledged that the process was “rocky.”

“While the history of these negotiations was rocky, I believe both parties were motivated, professional, and earnestly attempted to address the best interest of all involved,” he said.