UPDATE 9/18/2021: Chief Ortiz indicated that after additional reinforcements show up in the next few days, the PFP will resume.
In response to the seemingly endless flow of immigrants under the Del Rio port of entry, Del Rio Sector management decided the PFP needed to be canceled for all employees.
However, Local 2366 disagrees wholeheartedly with this decision, which is why we filed the below step one grievance last night.
According to Chief Scott’s memorandum dated June 23, 2021, “[t]he long-term physical and mental wellness of all U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) personnel is our priority,” allowing for employees to participate for up to five hours per week while on duty. According to Section 6.5.1 of the Internal Operating Procedures (IOP), supervisors must “[a]pprove and schedule employees’ participation when operational demands permit.” There is no provision in the IOP for a unilateral shutdown of the program.
While it might seem like a no-brainer to Del Rio Sector management that our operational demands are through the roof at the moment, that does not mean that every agent in every work location in the sector has something to do every moment of every shift.
For example, agents who get relieved from working under the port of entry in Del Rio return to the station where they find out if the supervisors have a specific task for them to do. If they do not have specific work for the employee to do, the supervisor must, pursuant to Section 6.5.1 of the IOP, allow the employee to participate in the PFP. This decision has to be made on a case-by-case basis.
When an oncoming shift at a station relieves the previous shift, they take over the workstations and start processing. The outgoing shift then either has to help with other assorted tasks, or they do not, depending on the needs of the incoming shift. If the incoming shift is able to handle the work, then anyone on the outgoing shift without work to do should be allowed to work out.
Over the past several months, we have had supervisors tell agents, “go find something to do,” but even that is not appropriate – supervisors need to be supervisors and assign agents to specific tasks. Barring a specific task that needs to be done, participation in the PFP, upon request of the employee, is allowed.
There is perhaps no better time than right now to allow agents to participate in the PFP. Workloads are through the roof, and stress levels are even higher. Our agents are not robots, and exercise is frequently the most successful way of mitigating that stress. Even if an employee can only work out for 30 minutes, that is better than the employee standing around, watching the clock, waiting to go home.
The agency routinely tells its workforce that they care about our employees’ mental and physical wellbeing, so why take away the one thing the workforce is telling you that actually makes them feel better?
We dealt with this exact same issue in EGS in 2017, but after a step two grievance was filed, the problem was fixed and agents were allowed to resume participation in the PFP.
The union fully understands that things are crazy right now, which is why we are trying to be reasonable with this grievance. Even when RGV Sector was arresting 20,000 people in a week, they still did not cancel workouts. Yes, they have more manpower and resources, but their management recognized the importance of giving the agents an outlet to relieve stress and prioritized it as much as processing the large groups of immigrants.
As a remedy to this grievance, we insisted that the PFP be reinstated for all employees in Del Rio Sector and that the PFP policy be followed, requiring supervisors to consider PFP requests on a case-by-case basis. If a supervisor needs an employee to do a specific task, and doing that task prevents the employee from working out, so be it. But if the task can be done by someone else or there is nothing needed of the employee, then he or she shall be released to work out.