DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS NORTHERN IDAHO AGENCY LAPWAI, IDAHO and LOCAL 265, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of )

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS

NORTHERN IDAHO AGENCY

LAPWAI, IDAHO

and

LOCAL 265, NATIONAL

FEDERATION OF FEDERAL

EMPLOYEES

Case No. 90 FSIP 11

 

DECISION AND ORDER

 

Local 265, National Federation of Federal Employees (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under section 7119 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute) between it and the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northern Idaho Agency, Lapwai, Idaho (Employer).

The Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved pursuant to written submissions from the parties with the Panel to take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. Submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has considered the entire record

BACKGROUND

The Employer's mission is to provide services to the Nez Pierce, Coeur D'Alene, and Kootenai Indian tribes whose members live on approximately 158,000 acres of reservation land in northern Idaho. The Employer provides law enforcement, social and environmental services, and assistance In managing forestry programs on the reservations. Employees are part of a nationwide consolidated bargaining unit of approximately 10,000 in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); the Northern Idaho Agency employs about 47 General Schedule and Wage Grade employees who hold positions such as law enforcement officer, forester, secretary, clerk, teller, and social worker.

The master collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) between the National Federation of Federal Employees and BIA, which was to expire in May 1989, has been extended until its successor is executed. There is also in effect a November 16, 1988, supplemental agreement to the master CBA which authorizes the parties at the local levels to negotiate over alternative work schedules (AWS).

The dispute herein arose during negotiations over AWS pursuant to the supplemental agreement, and concerns, essentially, whether employees should be permitted to experiment with a variety of work schedules.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The parties disagree over whether they should conduct a work schedule experiment where employees would be given the option of working, in addition to the current schedule of 5 8-hour days per week, a 4-day workweek consisting of 10-hour days or a schedule with flexible starting hours.

1. The Union's Position

The Union proposes to conduct an experiment during Daylight Saving Time beginning in 1990, whereby in addition to the standard 8-hour workday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., employees could request to work either a 10-hour day, 4-day workweek, or an 8-hour day with flexible hours; the lunch period for the latter two options could be up to 2 hours, provided employees work the requisite number of hours in a day under their schedule. The Employer retains authority to approve or disapprove work schedules; in the event of inadequate coverage under a 10-hour-day schedule, the employee would revert to a flexible work schedule. Conflicts in scheduling are to be resolved informally, but if no agreement, the matter would be referred to a three-person Adjustment Board consisting of management and Union representative, and alternatively, a third management or Union representative. Participation in flexitime or a 10-hour schedule could be terminated when a decline in staffing warranted different coverage, or an employee repeatedly failed to comply with the provisions of the selected plan. At the conclusion of the trial period, the parties would renegotiate the agreement.

The Union argues that a 10-hour-day schedule may facilitate the delivery of services to the tribes and other members of the public, since employees would be available an additional 2 hours on their scheduled workdays. Those employees who must travel to the reservations would be able to spend longer periods of time there providing services, instead of having to conclude their travel and contacts within a shorter 8-hour particularly Portland, Oregon, the site of the Area Office, and Washington, D.C., a 10-hour day would increase the overlapping workhours, thereby providing greater opportunity for doing business. Coverage for those on a day off under a 10-hour-day schedule could be provided, since on numerous occasions individuals in one branch or job have covered for those who are in different branches and classification series. Finally, should there be a coverage problem, the proposal provides a safeguard for management allowing it to terminate or alter an employee's participation in a 4-lo schedule.

2. The Employer's Position

Under the Employer's proposal, all employees would work fixed hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a 1-hour lunch break. During the period from May 1 through October 31 of each year, however, field crews and others in field operations could be required to work a 10-hour-day, 4-day workweek schedule.

In support of its position, the Employer argues that there are too few employees to provide services adequately under a 10-hour-day schedule. In this regard, the absence of any one employee in a branch, which often consists of only one or two persons, would adversely affect the delivery of services to the tribes. It is imperative that employees be available 5 days a week since tribal members often travel great distances from the reservations to the agency headquarters in Lapwai for services. Moreover, AWS was discontinued in 1983 because of coverage problems, and it would be more difficult to reinstate it successfully now when there are even fewer employees available to perform the work. Limiting a 10-hour workday to field employees, of which there are approximately 10, would help the agency better provide services, since it would allow additional time to travel to sites and perform work during "the season" when most roadwork is performed and forest fires occur.

CONCLUSIONS

Having fully considered the parties' evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that a compromise solution should be adopted. We are persuaded by the Employer's argument that a 10-hour-day schedule would not be feasible for the majority of employees because it would exacerbate the current coverage problems in the office, and thus jeopardize service to the clientele. Accordingly, the parties should adopt the Employer's proposal. We note, however, that the Employer does not raise objections to-that portion of the Union's proposal w