DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA and LOCAL 1429, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FEDERAL DISTRICT 1, IAM&AW,AFL-CIO

 

In the Matter of 

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT
CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA


 

 

                 and 

LOCAL 1429, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
  FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FEDERAL
     DISTRICT 1, IAM&AW,AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 04 FSIP 42

 

 ARBITRATOR'S OPINION AND DECISION

The Department of the Army, Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, (Employer) and Local 1429, National Federation of Federal Employees, Federal District 1, IAM&AW, AFL-CIO (Union), filed a joint request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119.  After an investigation of the request for assistance, which arises from bargaining over the Employer's decision to eliminate the paid lunch period during weekend overtime assignments, the Panel directed the parties to mediation-arbitration by telephone conference with the undersigned.  Accordingly, on March 11, 2004, a mediation-arbitration proceeding was held with representatives of the parties.  During the mediation phase, various options for settling the dispute were discussed, but a voluntarily resolution was not achieved.1/  In reaching this decision, I have considered the entire record in this matter, including the parties' final offers and oral statements of position. 

BACKGROUND 

    The Employer operates a depot where maintenance and overhauling of missile systems, such as the Patriot Missile, and heavy-duty vehicles, such as the Humvee, are undertaken.  The Union represents 750 bargaining-unit employees who work as electrical, heavy mobile equipment, and ordnance equipment mechanics; painters; sheet metal machinists; and welders; their grades range from WG-5 through –13.  The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is extended annually under an automatic rollover provision; it was originally due to expire on February 8, 1997. 

ISSUE AT IMPASSE 

The parties essentially disagree over whether unit employees on 8-hour weekend overtime assignments should take a 30-minute unpaid lunch or be permitted, based on majority vote within each work unit,2/ to take the morning and afternoon breaks back-to-back at midday. 

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES 

1.  The Employer's Position 

The Employer is proposing that the current weekday schedule, which includes an unpaid ½-hour lunch period, be followed during weekend overtime periods.3/  This schedule is more desirable because employees are accustomed to it.  By contrast, the varying schedules that employees might select under the Union’s proposal would be administratively burdensome to monitor and inefficient should employees not return from their midday breaks within the 20 minutes allotted.  Furthermore, “employees need their breaks and lunch through the week and [] on an overtime weekend, especially after they have worked 40 or more hours during that week.” 

2.  The Union's Position 

The Union proposes that: 

Employees working an 8-hour overtime day be given the opportunity in each individual cost center, by majority vote, to combine the morning rest break (10 minute) and the afternoon rest break (10 minute) into one 20-minute rest break in the first half of the shift.  Individual cost centers that adopt this proposal would forego their 30-minute unpaid lunch period. 

Taking the two 10-minute breaks together would be more “productive” because “two start and stop times will be eliminated,” thereby reducing work interruptions.  In addition, the majority vote would ensure that the entire work unit would be on the same schedule, making it easy to administer.  Other benefits include increasing employees’ willingness to volunteer for overtime assignments, and “provid[ing] a morale boost for [employees] who will have more time with their families on a weekend.”  Finally, since both the snack bar and base restaurant are closed on weekends, employees do not need the 30-minute unpaid lunch period the Employer is proposing. 

CONCLUSION 

Having carefully considered the arguments and evidence presented in this case, I conclude, on balance, that the parties should adopt the Union’s proposal to resolve their dispute.  The chief concern the Employer raises is that employees in those cost centers and workgroups that choose to take the 20-minute break might not return promptly to the worksite, thereby creating an administrative burden.  At this point, when employees on weekend overtime will no longer be granted a paid lunch, I am persuaded that it is reasonable to permit them to select, by majority vote, whether to cumulate their two 10-minute breaks in the middle of the day or take a ½-hour unpaid lunch.  Furthermore, Article 10, Section 12, of the parties’ CBA permits breaks to be combined so long as “the total time will not exceed 20 minutes or be used to shorten the work day.”  As the parties have agreed to reopen the matter in 1-year, should groups that opt for the 20-minute midday break abuse that practice, the Employer would be free to reopen the agreement to disallow the practice. 

DECISION 

The parties shall adopt the Union‘s proposal.

 

John G. Cruz
Arbitrator

 

April 28, 2004
Irvine, California