January 01 2022 12:00 am

Rally over VA labor contracts in Temple

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TEMPLE, Texas – Protesters, including current employees, gathered outside the Temple Veteran Affairs hospital on Wednesday to argue for a new and fair labor contract.

The American Federation of Government Employees, a labor union including VA employees, entered into contract negotiations with the Department of Veterans Affairs in May. So far, no agreement has been reached.

Protesters think the current contract proposal by the VA is unfair.

“It was just a horrible proposal. It was an insult the the agency brought to the table. And we need to make people aware of it,” says Charles Kabrich, a current VA employee and member of AFGE.

They say a large chunk of their rights were removed, but the VA says those rights are already defined in federal law.

“The attacks that they have are going to attack my rights as an employee, my rights to take leave, my right to file a grievance against something,” Kabrich says.

“When you attack the employees who give the care to the veterans, that means that the care the veterans get is being attacked, also,” says Fredna White, a retired employee and chair of the local AFGE.

They say VA Secretary Robert Wilkie knows there are 50,000 employee vacancies nationwide, but there has been no hiring.

“It’s an injustice to the veterans not to hire adequate staff,” Kabrich says.

Protesters are also afraid the VA is trying to privatize. The Mission Act was passed last year, and allows for veterans to seek medical treatment from a private provider.

“They’re not going to get the care in the private sector that they get here. I’m not trying to talk down about the private sector, but it takes a special type of care for veterans,” White says.

The VA says privatization is a myth that has been thoroughly debunked.

The say they have more employees, a big budget, and are seeing more patients than ever before.

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