Solidarity – BBG Problems with Employees Not Limited to VOA
Solidarity among the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees, who are managed by the worst-rated team of executives in the entire federal government and executives of some of the BBG’s semi-private grantee organizations, has received a boost from the AFGE Local 1812 Union, which represents most of the BBG’s federal workforce. The article from the AFGE 1812 Summer Newsletter 2012, which was distributed at the quarterly union meeting on Thursday, expresses solidarity with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) foreign employees. The BBG and RFE/RL management team has for years denied them basic labor law protections against discrimination and other unfair practices. Most of RFE/RL employees who are deprived of these basic rights by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the management of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. work at the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic.
The rest of the Summer Newsletter issue will be posted soon on the union website.
We also call your attention to the following AFGE Local 1812 articles:
Slippin’ Into Darkness
BBG vs. Congress
Still Stiffing the U.S. Taxpayer
OER — The Comedy Show Continues
Bonuses, Bonuses as far as the Eye Can See
It’s the Morale, Not the Pizzas
BBG Problems with Employees Not Limited to VOA
We all know the drill: VOA employees are called upon countless times in on-air programming to discuss or explain the human rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution: lst amendment rights, the rule of law, the right to petition for redress of grievance and many others as well. However, there have been too many instances where, in real life, the governing body of this Agency and the people immediately under their jurisdiction make a mockery of these hallowed concepts by not practicing what the employees are expected to preach, if you will, to the rest of the world.
However, the federal employees at the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting have it a bit better than the employees in some grantee organizations under the direction of the BBG because, as federal employees, they are covered by a contract and labor law and have the ability and right to file a grievance over management violations of the law. They are also under the oversight of the U.S. Congress, which, by the way, appropriates the funds so that the Agency can exist and carry out its international broadcasting functions. Many suspect that the primary reason the BBG Executive Staff and the IBB are hell-bent on de-federalizing the Voice of America is to ensure that employees will no longer have those protections.
Judging by many reported complaints, employees in the grantee organizations, especially RFE/RL, are in much worse shape as far as employee rights are concerned. Subjected to discriminatory and arbitrary/capricious firings and with no possibility of making their case before a third party, RFE/RL employees are forced to take their grievances to the courts in Prague and the Council of Europe. This is in contrast to the years when RFE/RL headquarters were based in Munich, Germany before being moved to Prague. In fact, it was a well-known fact in some quarters, that one of the underlying reasons to move the headquarters was a desire to escape the strong union traditions existing in Germany.
A few recent examples include former RFE/RL employee, Snjezana Pelivan. She filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights against the Czech government claiming that the Czech government tolerates discrimination by allowing RFE/RL (based in Prague) to provide fewer employee rights and protections to non-Czech citizens.
Another former RFE/RL employee, Anna Karapetian, has a case before the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic with a similar complaint.
Both Pelivan and Karapetian claim they were terminated without warning and justification which is contrary to Czech labor law.
When it came time for severance pay, Ms. Pelivan was reportedly presented with a letter by RFE/RL management stating that she accepted her termination and promised not to challenge her termination in any public forum. She refused to sign it and as a result, the Agency refused to provide her with any severance pay.
Pelivan is Croatian and Karapetian is Armenian. They found that they had nowhere to go with their complaints other than RFE/RL management. There was no appeal to a third party. Also, Czech labor laws apply to Czech employees who work for RFE/RL but non-Czech employees are left out in the cold and technically have virtually no rights at all.
It would seem a simple matter of providing non-Czech citizens with a fair third party hearing for employee complaints and grievances. Surely, that is not an impossible thing to devise for an Agency that broadcasts information about human rights worldwide.
It’s also a wake-up call to everyone in our bargaining unit who may be oblivious to or who take for granted the advantages of having federal employee status and being covered by a contract and labor law. That is essentially what the BBG Executive Staff wants to take away from its employees by its constant efforts to privatize. And probably another reason why it instituted the most recent reduction-in-force aimed primarily at its federal employees in the Voice of America and Radio/TV Marti.