Update: The VRP/ROB MOU has been posted, here.
What is the VRP? On August 26, 2010, the agency and the NBPC entered into the most recent VRP agreement that continued a test program that was approved by Congress and that was intended to provide Federal Agencies and Federal Employees more move opportunities by decreasing the amount of money an agency would have to pay for relocations. The test program expired on April 29, 2014, which also ended the negotiated VRP.
Under the VRP, the agency identified vacancies at Border Patrol Stations and posted those openings on USA Jobs. Agents were provided an opportunity to apply for the openings and were able to put in for a maximum of five locations. OPM compiled referral lists of all applicants by seniority and sent the lists to the selecting officials at the individual sectors. On each referral list, the selecting official (management) was able to consider the top seven (7) names, which became the list of consideration, for the first vacancy. For each additional vacancy, one more name from the referral list was added to the list of consideration. Management was able to select anyone from the list of consideration regardless of seniority.
- Example: Station “A” has two vacancies and 10 agents apply for those openings. Management would be given the referral list containing the names of all 10 agents but would only be able to select from the list of consideration or the top 8 agents based upon seniority. With their two selections, management would be able to choose the two most junior agents from the list of consideration even if those agents only had 3 years in the patrol and the most senior agents had 20 years in the patrol. Management would be required to take into consideration the seniority of all agents on the “consideration list,” but if they determined the junior agents were more qualified, management would be free to choose those agents.
- Recent examples of how selections were made under the last few VRP announcements: After management received their lists, they called the duty stations of the applicants to compile a matrix on each agent (the matrices were not negotiated and at times management refused to admit that they used them. The NBPC found out about the matrix through management. A matrix was not used on all selections). In many cases, they were looking for specific qualifications or certifications such as Firearms Instructors, Boat Patrol Certifications, Horse Patrol Certifications, etc., and they made their selections based upon those certifications and other factors, including overall seniority. About 4 or 5 years ago, we saw a great many Firearms Instructors selected in the VRPs even though in many instances they were some of the most junior agents on the “consideration list.” We also saw an awful lot of senior agents passed over because management claimed they weren’t the most qualified agents when they made their selections.
Albeit a big factor, seniority isn’t the only component to being selected under the VRP.
What is the ROB? The Relocation Opportunity Bulletin is almost the same as the VRP. The biggest difference is that the VRP is a funded program and the ROB is a non-funded program. There are a few other subtle differences such as:
- Agents will be able to apply for three locations instead of five.
- Agents will be required to submit a resume.
- There are no seniority limitations to make the consideration list. Seniority will still be a factor and must be considered when making a selection, but it’s not the only factor.
Another reason the ROB is considered a non-funded program is because it doesn’t provide the same moving benefits as the VRP. Under the VRP and prior to moving, an agent is given 5 days of admin leave to take a house hunting trip. At the time of moving, agents are given three more admin days to pack their household belongings and another three admin days to unpack upon arrival at their new duty location. Agents are also given admin leave for travel to get to their new duty station, but there is no per diem.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is the ROB a location swap program?
A. No, you do not have to find someone to trade locations with you. It is an application and selection program just like the VRP. It is anticipated that Nationwide ROBs will be announced on USA Jobs and that in sector ROBs will be announced via memorandum.
Q. Is every station going to have slots available?
A. Staffing levels are determined by the agency and, like the VRP, those levels will determine the openings.
Q. How many agents will be able to leave one station?
A. Just like the VRP, there is no hard number. Because this is a test program that will last only two years, and if the agency wants it to continue after the initial expiration, they will make proper selections regardless of the number of agents from one station that will be reassigned.
Q. How much time in service must an agent have to participate in the ROB?
A. Eligibility begins once an agent is off probation.
Q. If an agent accepts a ROB, is there a waiting period before an agent is eligible to apply for another relocation?
A. Like the VRP, there is a two-year waiting period.
Q. Will management prevent agents in focus sectors such as Tucson and RGV from being selected under the ROB?
A. If management wants this program to continue beyond the initial two-year trial period, they will not exclude anyone from being selected. As management did with some provisions of the VRP, however, they can violate provisions of this agreement and the NBPC will have to take appropriate action. Unfortunately, there are no provisions the NBPC can add that will ensure management does not violate an agreement, but we retain the right to file grievances, ULPs and EEO complaints.
Q. Can an agent apply for the same number of stations under the ROB as he/she could under the VRP?
A. No, under the ROB an agent may apply for up to three stations per announcement and under the VRP an agent may apply for up to five stations per announcement.
Q. Will the ROB inhibit or replace any other negotiated agreements, whether national or local.
A. No, the ROB does not replace or inhibit any agreement already set forth.
Q. Is the NBPC working on a location swap program?
A. Yes, the NBPC proposed a location swap program to the agency more than a year ago and we’re still in negotiations.
As you can see, the ROB is an inferior program when compared to the VRP, just like the VRP is an inferior program to fully funded moves, but when the ROB is coupled with the VRP and hopefully a location swap program in the near future, the possibility of agents being able to move will be greatly enhanced. We haven’t had any mobility announcements in almost three years and this agreement ensures there will be regular mobility opportunities for the next two years.
If you have any other questions, please contact us and we will get you an answer.