DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY SUPERVISOR OF SHIPBUILDING, CONVERSION, AND REPAIR NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA and LOCAL R4-2, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

SUPERVISOR OF SHIPBUILDING,

CONVERSION, AND REPAIR

NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA

and

LOCAL R4-2, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 90 FSIP 15

DECISION AND ORDER

Local R4-2, National Association of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (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 Navy, Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair, Newport News, Virginia (Employer, SUPSHIP).

After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to meet informally with Staff Associate Ellen J. Kolansky for the purpose of resolving the issue at impasse. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, she would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute and her recommendations for resolving the issues. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse including the issuance of a binding decision. During the informal conference held on January 31, 1990, at Newport News, Virginia, the parties agreed to maintain the status quo as to existing alternative work schedules, but one new scheduling option remained unresolved. Mrs. Kolansky reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties on this remaining issue. The Panel has considered the entire record  in the case.

BACKGROUND

The Employer monitors the quality and performance of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (Contractor) on contracts with the Government to repair and construct aircraft carriers and submarines. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 275 employees, the majority of whom hold positions as quality assurance specialists and production controllers. The dispute arose during reopener negotiations over the hours-of-work article in the parties' master agreement which expired on March 17, 1990.

The Union's request was filed with the Panel after an arbitrator ruled that it had the right under the master agreement to reopen negotiations over the entire hours-of-work article, and not just the parties' 5-4-9 compressed work schedule option. Currently, employees may request a 5-4-9 option or work regular hours. Both schedules begin at 7:15 a.m. The Contractor's first shift(1) begins at 7 a.m.; its office workers arrive at 7 a.m.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The issue at impasse is arrival times for employees working regular hours. The Employer proposed a flexitour with preselected arrival times of 7, 7:15, or 7:30 a.m.; the Union, a flexitime band from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m.

1. The Union's Position

As a preliminary matter, the Union asserts that it was unfairly surprised by the figures, graphs, and charts the Employer presented at the informal conference, and asks that the Panel disregard them.(2) Although it requested any documentation and evidence the Employer intended to use before a third party on September 13, 1989, it received none prior to the January conference.

Under its proposal, the Union asserts that employees would be better able to: (1) establish carpooling schedules; (2) deliver children to daycare or parents to eldercare; and (3) cope with the raising of the James River drawbridge. Since all of the Contractor's employees must arrive by 7:30 a.m., traffic congestion would be reduced for SUPSHIP employees arriving between then and 8:15 a.m. The Union reported on studies published in U.S.A. Today on October 11, 1989, and January 6, 1990, which indicate that flexible schedules increase productivity and morale. Generally, supervisors are able to predict employees' arrivals because those on flexible schedules tend to arrive at the same time each day.

It disputes the Employer's position that: (1) interface activities(3) ideally should approach 100 percent in some areas; (2) the designation of core hours would be unrealistic; (3) it would experience significant additional costs due to lost staff hours under the Union's proposal; and (4) the anticipated U.S.C. Enterprise project and the current hiring freeze would further strain its ability to meet goals. In most instances, interface activities require only 1 to 3 hours per day. Employees so engaged do not observe work actually being performed, but examine the quality of completed work. For this reason, the correlation of hours with the shipyard need not be total. Within SUPSHIP, most employees work independently, so interface is not a factor. Staffing levels support monitoring of only the most important tests. The Employer's figures appear to be inflated, and do not adjust for anticipated losses due to Monday holidays taken by SUPSHIP employees, annual and sick leave, or the Contractor's December shutdown period when SUPSHIP remains open. Furthermore, the U.S.S. Enterprise project is speculative, and a waiver may be sought to overcome problems caused by the hiring freeze.

Finally, employees have accomplished the delivery of ships early under the current alternative work schedule hours. Employees are cooperative, often coming in early, staying late, or working through lunch as needed. At the headquarters in Washington, D.C., employees perform oversight functions which also require interface, yet have beginning hours at half-hour intervals between G:30 and 8:30 a.m. It points to two previous decisions where the Panel recommended flexitime programs for employees engaged in similar work.(4)

 

2. The Employer's Position

The importance of an interface between its employees and those of the Contractor makes it impossible to designate a central core of hours when its employees must be present. Lost interface opportunities under its own plan could cost $636,272, but under the Union's proposal could reach $2,085,824. Further, demands on its limited staff are increasing due to a Department of Defense hiring freeze exacerbated by normal losses from attrition, and the undertaking of a major project involving the removal of spent nuclear fuel and the overhaul of the U.S.S. Enterprise, scheduled for November 1990. Moreover, its proposal would permit it to continue to exert a palpable presence necessary to ensure that contracts meet the highest quality standards on projects critical to the safety of Naval forces, and to the country's security. At the same time, employees would receive greater flexibility within a time frame least likely to interfere with shipboard work, and give supervisors an accurate idea of an employee's availability for assigning work and scheduling meetings.

CONCLUSION

As a threshold matter, we note that the Employer's introduction of extensive financial impact data at the informal conference without any opportunity for prior review by the Union is contrary to the principles of fair dealing. This will not be supported nor encouraged. When necessary information is shared in advance, the most favorable setting for meaningful debate is created. Furthermore, the Employer's rebuttal request is untimely, and is without explanation or justification as it was permitted ample time at the conference to present its position. Having considered the evidence and the arguments, we conclude that the Employer's proposal for a flexitour, as modified below, provides a reasonable basis for resolution of the impasse. Certainly, even under the Union's view of the duration of interface activities, since their timing within the day is unpredictable, an employee may need to be present during a large portion of the day. Furthermore, the uncertainties presented by the hiring freeze and the U.S.S. Enterprise project suggest that the Employer's resources may be stretched for the near future. In that regard, we shall order an 18-month reopener provision by request of either party. This would permit the parties to revisit the issue of flexible arrival times when the effects of these uncertainties may be clearer. This resolution gives employees on a regular schedule an incremental improvement, and leaves the possibility that a positive experience with it may justify an increase in such options following the 18-month period.

ORDER

Pursuant to the authority vested in it by section 7119 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted pursuant to section 2471.6(a)(2) of the Panel's regulations, the Federal Service Impasses Panel under section 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the parties to adopt the Employer's proposal modified to include the following:

Either party may give notice and reopen negotiations over flexible arrival times 18 months following the implementation date of the flexitour program. Such negotiations will begin within lO days of notice, last no longer than 30 days, and either party may request impasse proceedings at the end of the 30-day period.

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

March 30, l990

Washington, D.C.

1. The Contractor's employees work one of three shifts during a 24-hour period; most SUPSHIP employees work during the first shift, a small number during the second shift.

2. The Union was permitted to submit a rebuttal, received February 14, 1990, to the Employer's documentation following the informal conference. It filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Washington Region of the Federal Labor Relations Authority concerning the matter. In a letter received by the Panel on March 7, 1990, the Employer requested an opportunity to respond to the Union's rebuttal.

3. Interface refers to activities requiring contact between SUPSHIP's and the Contractor's employees, or those