The Washington Post

Details of contract deal for transportation security officers


A tentative contract agreement covering 45,000 federal airport screeners calls for a new performance management system, and allows for an increased clothing allowance and a standardized vacation bidding process.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said in an interview hours after completing negotiations that lasted until after 3 a.m. Thursday.

One major change in the tentative deal is the elimination of the pay for performance system known as PASS (Performance Accountability and Standards System). It would be replaced by TOPS (Transportation Officer Performance System).

The difference goes beyond the acronym and gets to the way workers are evaluated under the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) pay for performance program.

The agreement, which has been worked on since February, must now be ratified by the TSOs who screen passengers and baggage at the nation’s airports.

“For 10 long years AFGE has fought hard so that Transportation Security Officers would have collective bargaining rights. We have often looked back and wondered why it was taking so long,” Gage said in a statement. “Today we begin to look forward.”

Under the tentative contract:

● The TOPS performance pay program would be based on employee execution of goals and supervisor observations over a year’s time, rather than heavily on a certification test as is the case with PASS.

●A standard shift and annual leave bidding process would be based on seniority.

●The annual clothing allowance for TSOs to buy uniforms would increase; so would the allotment of clothing provided by the agency.

●TSOs would have more flexibility in uniform selections, including shorts in hot weather and jackets in cold weather.

Additionally, under a side agreement worked out between Gage and TSA Administrator John S. Pistole, issues that could result in a suspension of more than 14 days could be taken to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Less serious issues could be decided by a neutral arbitrator.

The contract agreement “represents a significant milestone in our relationship with our employees,” Pistole said in a statement. “We look forward to a review of the agreement by our covered employees.”

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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