DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE OKLAHOMA CITY AREA OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA and NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND

HUMAN SERVICES

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE

OKLAHOMA CITY AREA

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

and

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF

FEDERAL

EMPLOYEES

Case No. 90 FSIP 90

DECISION AND ORDER

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 Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service, Oklahoma City Area, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Employer).

The Panel determined that the case should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties. After considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

The Employer's mission is to provide health care to Native Americans in Kansas and Oklahoma through a number of hospitals and area service units. The Union represents approximately 600 employees engaged in a wide variety of health-related activities. The parties' previous agreement expired on August 20, 1988.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

The issues at impasse in this case arose during negotiations over the parties' successor collective bargaining agreement, and essentially concern: (1) the amount of official time/administrative leave to be granted to Union representatives for labor-management training; (2) the amount of such time which may be used by any one representative; and (3) whether more than one representative at a time from the same service unit, or in the case of facilities with over 100 bargaining-unit employees, the same department, will be granted such time.

1. The Union's Position

The Union proposes the following wording:

The Employer agrees to grant official time to employees who are Council/Local officials and representatives for the purpose of attending Union-sponsored training sessions and other training sessions, provided the training concerns 5 U.S.C. [Chapter] 71, basic statutes, agency policies, and/or the administration of this agreement. Official time for this purpose shall not exceed 64 hours per 100 bargaining-unit employees (or fraction thereof) for each local union for a 12-month period.
No more than 40 hours may be used by any one official or representative.
A written request for official time, listing the names and locations of each representative will be submitted 3 weeks in advance to the appropriate Service Unit Director. The request will contain information about the duration, purpose, and nature of the training.
Normally, no more than two representatives from each department (i.e., E.R., O.B., Dental x-ray, etc.) will be released at the same time. Union representatives will normally be released to attend such training subject to workload requirements. The Employer agrees that disapproval of official time under this Article will not be arbitrary or capricious. 
The Employer will give valid consideration to annual leave or leave-without-pay requests to enable Council officials and representatives to attend other training of concern to them in their capacity as employee representatives.

The Union's proposal is "only a slight modification" of the status quo which would permit Union officials at two of the Employer's larger hospitals to provide representational training to more individuals. The requested increase in official time is not extreme, and similar provisions have been agreed upon in two other contracts negotiated by the Union. Its proposal also would increase from 32 to 40 the number of hours per year available to any one individual to enable "enthusiastic" officials to receive advanced training provided annually either at its headquarters or at the location of its National convention. Moreover, by requiring Union officials to provide 3 weeks' advance notice when requesting the use of such time, and by including wording which would guarantee that the Employer could deny such requests on the basis of workload requirements, its ability to accomplish its mission is ensured. Finally, there is no evidence of any problems having arisen in the past concerning the use of official time for Union-sponsored training.

2. The Employer's Position

The Employer's proposal is as follows:

The Employer agrees to grant administrative leave to employees who are Union officials for the purpose of attending Union-sponsored and other training sessions, provided the training concerns S U.S.C. [Chapter] 71, basic statutes, agency policies, and/or the administration of this agreement. Administrative leave for this purpose will not exceed 64 hours for each local Union within any 12-month period, except that locals representing more than 100 employees will be authorized an additional 32 hours within any 12-month period. No more than 32 hours will be used by any one official. No more than one official from each facility will be released at the same time, except that up to three officials may be released at facilities with more than 100 bargaining-unit employees. However, no more than one of these will be from any given department. 
Written requests for administrative leave will be submitted at least 3 weeks in advance by the Council President to the Area Personnel Officer. The request will contain information about the duration, purpose, and nature of the training. Requests for administrative leave will be approved/disapproved in the same manner as requests for annual leave, with primary concern being workload requirements. If workload will permit, the request will normally be approved.
The Employer will also give valid consideration to annual leave or leave-without-pay requests to enable Council officials to attend other training of concern to them in their capacity of employee representatives.

A change in the status quo is necessary because a number of small outpatient clinics have been added to its operations since the parties' initial provision was negotiated, and "allowing more than one person to be absent at a time from departments and small facilities would work a severe hardship on the Employer. n Its proposal, therefore, would give the Employer the flexibility it needs to carry out its mission. While there is no justification for increasing the amount of administrative time per year for Union-sponsored training, the Employer nonetheless is willing to provide locals which represent more than 100 employees 32 hours per year in addition to what already is permitted under the expired agreement. Moreover, although there have been no requests during the past 4 years for more than 24 hours for any training session by any official, it is offering to maintain the parties' past practice of allowing individual representatives to use up to 32 hours per year for Union-sponsored training.

CONCLUSIONS

Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that the parties should adopt a compromise to settle their dispute. Concerning the issue of how many hours of official time should be granted to Union representatives for labor-management training, we find that the evidence and arguments do not support a need for the additional amount requested by the Union. Thus, we shall order the parties to implement the smaller increment offered by the Employer, which should permit larger local units to train more individuals, thereby furthering the labor-management relations process. As to the related question of the number of hours per year that any one individual may be permitted to use for this purpose, we are not persuaded that there is a need for an increase beyond the current allotment of 32 hours per representative, so the status quo should be maintained. We note, however, that under our order the Employer will be required to give valid consideration to annual leave or leave-without-pay requests so that the total training time may be augmented.

With respect to the issue of how many employees may be released simultaneously to participate in Union-sponsored training, we do not believe that specific wording is warranted to prohibit more than one official from smaller facilities, or within the same department in the case of larger facilities, from being released at the same time. In this regard, the Employer's concerns appear to be speculative, and unsupported by evidence of past difficulties. For this reason, we shall order the adoption of a modified version of the Union's proposal regarding this aspect of the dispute. That is, the number of representatives who may be released to attend such training should be left to the discretion of the management official or officials designated by the Employer, on the basis of workload requirements. In conjunction with the requirement that requests for the use of such time be in writing and submitted 3 weeks in advance, list the names and locations of each representative, and contain specific information pertinent to the training, we believe that the Employer's mission requirements would be protected. To ensure the fairness of such decisions, we further shall order the adoption of wording that requests for such official time will not be unreasonably denied.

 

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 following:

The parties shall adopt the following wording:

The Employer agrees to grant administr