DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE HANSCOM AFB, MASSACHUSETTS and LOCAL 1384, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FEDERAL DISTRICT 1, IAM&AW, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE
HANSCOM AFB, MASSACHUSETTS

and

LOCAL 1384, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
  FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FEDERAL
  DISTRICT 1, IAM&AW, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 04 FSIP 72

DECISION AND ORDER

      The Department of the Air Force, Hanscom Air Force Base, Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts (Employer), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), between it and Local 1384, National Federation of Federal Employees, Federal District 1, IAM&AW, AFL-CIO (Union).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance concerning implementation of the Department of Defense (DoD) Government Travel Card (GTC) program,1/ the Panel determined that the matter should be resolved through single written submissions. The parties were informed that after considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to settle the matter, which may include the issuance of a Decision and Order.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to manage the development and acquisition of electronic systems for the Air Force. The Union represents approximately 279 professional employees who work as scientists and engineers, at GS-9 through -15. Employees work at a variety of locations at Hanscom AFB, including the Philips and Rome Laboratories, and the Electric Systems Center. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering these employees is due to expire on December 5, 2005.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties essentially disagree over whether employees who refuse to provide their Social Security numbers (SSN) on the vendor's application form should be exempted from mandatory use of the GTC.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

  1. The agency head or his/her designee may exempt NFFE 1384 bargaining unit employees from using a Government contractor-issued travel charge card, and the agency may authorize one or a combination of the following methods of payment, in accordance with the law: (a) personal funds, including cash or personal charge card, (b) travel advances, or (c) Government Transportation Request (GTR).

  1. NFFE 1384 bargaining unit employees shall not be required to do the following in order to perform his/her job:

  1. Apply for personal credit.

  2. Submit to a contractor-performed credit check.

  3. Have unreasonable cost burdens imposed on him/her.

  4. Have his/her personal credit rating compromised and/or adversely affected unless the employee becomes delinquent on his/her account.

  5. Waive his/her constitutional rights and other rights, which include but are not limited to the Privacy Act, laws, and federal statutes.

Its proposal should be adopted because the law requires that all business-related travel by Federal employees be accomplished by using a GTC.2/  In this vein, the Employer established a GTC program, which requires mandatory use of the GTC. The only way for employees to obtain an individual GTC, and "the only way the agency can be in compliance with the law" is to complete the application for a GTC, which requires disclosure of the employee's SSN.

    The Union has failed to provide any evidence supporting its argument that requiring employees to use an individual GTC violates the Privacy Act. Contrary to the Union's argument, the individually billed GTC accounts "are protected by the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a) just like any other credit card." Further, the agreement between DoD and the credit card vendor outlines the extent of "disclosure allowed and limits disclosure to those purposes only." The evidence further indicates that the majority of bargaining-unit employees (74.9 percent) and Union officials (77.8 percent) either has had, or currently has, individual GTCs with no known complaints.

    The DoD regulation permits the Employer to declare exemptions for certain classes of individuals; however, the Union "has not requested such an exemption or articulated a legal basis for a class exemption of any kind." Moreover, exempting bargaining-unit employees from the GTC program would deprive employees traveling more than twice per year of its benefits, and cause the Government significant hardships with regard to "inconvenience, administrative burden, and increases in cost."

2. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes the following wording:

Because of the Privacy Act Law and other laws, it is not mandatory for the NFFE 1384 bargaining unit employee to reveal his/her [SSN] on a travel charge-card application form or to a travel charge-card company. Therefore, if the employee does not reveal his/her SSN on a travel-card application form, [and] the employee is denied the travel charge card [], in accordance with Volume 9, Chapter 3, Section 030302(b)[,] the employee is exempted from the 'mandatory' use of the travel charge card.

This proposal should be adopted because the Employer's policy requiring employees to reveal their SSNs when completing an application form for an individual GTC violates the Privacy Act. In this regard, the Privacy Act "gives American Citizens a greater say in the way records about them are kept and eliminates needless intrusions on personal privacy through the keeping of extraneous records." The type of personal information the vendor requires to be disclosed in order for an employee to receive an individual GTC is protected by the Privacy Act. There is "no law or government-wide regulation [requiring] employees to give his/her [SSN] to a travel-charge company as a condition of employment [emphasis in original]." Wording in the agreement between DoD and the credit card vendor, which states the "information requested is not mandatory and failure to provide the information will nullify the application, and a charge card will not be issued to the employee," supports the Union's view. The Employer must respect employees' rights established by law; therefore, "discipline cannot be justified and/or used against employees directly or indirectly, incidentally, and/or consequentially if the employees refuse to give his/her SSNs to a travel credit-card company." The impact of this proposal on the Employer should be minimal since approximately 10 or fewer employees qualify as frequent travelers. Thus, the Employer should exercise its legal authority to exempt employees who do not wish to reveal their SSN.

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties on this issue, we are persuaded that the Employer's proposal provides the better basis for resolving the dispute. In our view, it is broad enough to address employees' very legitimate privacy concerns while complying with Federal law. In this regard, the agreement between DoD and the GTC vendor protects employees' personal information against misuse. Moreover, it is undisputed that a majority of bargaining-unit employees either have, or have had a GTC with no known complaints or evidence of misuse by the credit card vendor. Indeed, the Union has not provided any evidence, nor is any apparent, that divulging their SSNs when applying for an individual GTC has harmed employees. Therefore, we shall order the adoption of the Employer's proposal.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel's regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations, hereby orders the following:

    The parties shall adopt the Employer's proposal.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky
Executive Director

November 8, 2004 
Washington, D.C.

 

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