The Foreign Service Journal, March 2023

AFSA NEWS 46 MARCH 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA Wins in the New Year STATE VP VOICE | BY TOM YAZDGERDI AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 647-8160 AFSA was happy to see that some of our priority initia- tives were acted on, or at least showed serious prog- ress, at the end of 2022 and into the new year. First, in early January 2023, as we had hoped, the department approved our proposal for an additional full-time AFSA elected posi- tion that will deal primarily with the issues and con- cerns of specialists, for a two-year monitoring period. (Please see my column in the January-February 2023 Foreign Service Journal for more.) As of this writing in mid- January, we have included this position in our call for elections for the 2023-2025 AFSA election period. We hope there will be a strong and diverse group of candi- dates who choose to run. Second, as one of his last official actions before departing office at the end of December, outgoing Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D-MR) Brian McKeon approved the establishment of a new Office of Bullying and Harassment Intervention within GTM. This is something that AFSA has championed for a long time. As I have writ- ten in the past, the depart- ment needs an office that is devoted exclusively to stopping bullying behavior and toxic work environments. Only in that way can we change a work culture that has often turned a blind eye and encouraged waiting for an offender to move on. Third, the State Depart- ment informed AFSA in early January that the White House had approved the resumption of retroac- tive promotions. This is a welcome and long overdue decision. Beginning in January 2017, the White House ceased the long-standing practice of awarding retroactive pro- motions to members of the Senior Foreign Service whose promotion had been delayed due to an administrative error or open investigation or discipline case. On Jan. 4 we learned that the White House has approved resumption of retroactive Foreign Service promotions. Retroactive commissioning of those who receive tenure but have had that held will also resume. Tenuring and promotion across the senior threshold require White House involve- ment in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee attesta- tion and confirmation pro- cess. Note that retroactive promotions for other grades were not affected. This is great news for those who have had tenure or SFS promotions held in abey- ance for a variety of reasons, including pending investiga- tions, which sometimes take years to conclude. AFSA still has questions about how the decision will be implemented, however. Will those affected between 2017 and 2023 be automatically included in the process, or will they need to request con- sideration?Will retroactive promotions just resume going forward? AFSA has pushed strongly for the department to include all those affected. To do otherwise would miss an opportunity to truly right this injustice. Fourth, as a result of our advocacy, the department is now in the process of putting funding for emer- gency back-up care (EBUC) on a more permanent footing. AFSA knows that our members rely on EBUC, which provides temporary help with dependent care, including for oneself. For a number of years, domestically assigned direct hire Foreign and Civil Service employees and their eligible family members have been able to access EBUC services for depen- dents through the Work Life For You (WL4Y) program. The department managed to scrape together funds from other sources to keep this critical program going, but hadn’t had a designated funding mechanism. In Fiscal Year 2021, GTM secured additional fund- ing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was able to increase the EBUC available for dependent care from 5 days to 10 days through the end of that fiscal year. It then reduced that number to 5 days in 2022. Concurrently, there had been discussions within State about whether appro- priated funds could be used at all to provide these ser- vices. The fact that the WL4Y contractor had increased prices over the years further complicated the funding issue. GTM has temporarily suspended all EBUC ser- vices so it can implement any necessary changes to meet legal requirements and ensure that the depart- ment can continue provid- ing EBUC services in the future. (Please see 22 STATE 137860.) By the time this column is published, the department will have announced these changes. AFSA fully expects that EBUC will continue to provide support to our members and all employees in need. Please let us know what you think about these issues by writing us at member@ n Retroactive commissioning of those who receive tenure but have had that held will also resume.