August 20, 2018
POPA has no information about when the systems will be up and running again but we recognize that the negative impacts on examiners continue to grow.
Thank you for the scenarios and concerns you have sent over the last few days that have helped in formulating POPA’s response to the outage. There are many unique situations examiners are facing, as well as many common concerns examiners have raised.
Although we requested more compensation, management has offered two hours of time per day. We do not believe the two hours is enough and we are continuing to request that more time be provided. The two hours per day should be considered a base level from which every examiner starts their conversation with the SPE about compensation.
In addition, many of you have rightfully pointed out that even if the outage ends soon, the first days of this pay period will be spent compiling, checking and submitting work for last pay period. Unless there is compensation this pay period as well as last pay period, examiners will not be fully compensated.
Most examiners have requested that the count deadline be delayed while a smaller number indicated that delaying the count deadline would have its own negative impact. We are aware of the negative impacts caused by delaying the end of counting, but the length of this outage makes it necessary to allow examiners time to complete and turn their work in. One remedy suggested is to treat both of these pay periods as one. This may end up being the way to go, especially if the outage continues. Clocks would need to be stopped and reset and examiners would need to be offered additional opportunities to get credit for oldest new and asterisk cases.
Some employees are concerned because the timing of the outage is critical to them in some way. They were finishing the sig program or a performance improvement period, up for promotion or a within grade increase, trying to qualify for overtime, trying to turn in cases to avoid the ceiling or just preparing to post their work before leaving for vacation late last week or this week. For this group of employees, POPA expects all of you to be given a reasonable opportunity to complete and post your work once you are back working and the systems are running properly prior to any negative assessment or the loss of any positive assessment being determined.
We have also heard from employees who were given opportunities to take training during the outage as well as those whose managers made little or no effort to help employees find training to take. At least one SPE used the old standard “read the MPEP”. For those of you who do have training you can take, avail yourself of it. For those who don’t, ask your supervisor again for assistance in identifying training that will be useful to you.
If you have continued to work, you have helped keep the agency going in a difficult time. Without incoming applications and outgoing notices of allowance, there is a serious disruption to the fee stream, fees needed to correct the IT problems and to pay our salaries. Many of you have pointed out how working has been far less than ideal. POPA understands that everything you are accomplishing now is going to require significant time to input, check and post once the systems are back up. These are nothing less than valiant efforts to keep the examination process going. Thank you for what you are doing. POPA will continue to advocate for better compensation for these efforts.