DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE BROOKLYN DISTRICT OFFICE BROOKLYN, NEW YORK and CHAPTER 53, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE Impasses PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY 

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE 

BROOKLYN DISTRICT OFFICE 

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK 

and  

CHAPTER 53, NATIONAL 

TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION 

Case No. 90 FSIP 161

DECISION AND ORDER

Chapter 53, National Treasury Employees Union (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 Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Brooklyn District Office, Brooklyn, New York (Employer or IRS).

After investigation of the request for assistance, 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 dispute. Submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

The Employer enforces the Federal tax laws. The Union represents approximately 1,330 General Schedule employees in a nationwide consolidated unit who work as auditors, clerks, and revenue agents and officers. The current dispute arose from impact-and-implementation bargaining over a 1 ½-mile move by 250 of the employees from a building on Tillary Street to One Hanson Place which occurred on April 30, 1990. The parties' relationship is governed by a national-level agreement which will expire on June 30, 1994.

A significant number of employees at both Hanson Place and Tillary Street often travel from these buildings to perform their field assignments. At Tillary Street, employees with such assignments have special permits to park free at city-designated spaces within a few blocks of the building. No such spaces or permits are available at the Hanson Place location, but the Employer reimburses employees for parking lot charges on such days. Employees also make frequent trips between the two buildings for which the Employer provides public transit tokens. Following the move, the Employer designated a manager to serve temporarily as the District Director's representative at One Hanson Place to deal with problems at the building. Both parties acknowledge security problems at and around the Hanson Place building. A future move is planned for all employees to the Barton building, located a few blocks from One Hanson Place.(1)

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

The issues concern: (1) shuttle bus service between the two buildings; (2) parking; and (3) a procedure for responding to complaints at One Hanson Place.

1. Shuttle Bus Service

    a. The Union's Position

Under the Union's proposal, the Employer would provide shuttle bus service between 35 Tillary Street and One Hanson Place. It asserts that this would facilitate the frequent trips that employees make between the two buildings. Furthermore, such travel might reduce employees' exposure to street crime at the new location, and could improve access to safer, less expensive, and more numerous parking lots close to the old location. Employees have been robbed, their cars stolen and their property vandalized at the new location.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes that the parties maintain the status quo, i.e., make use of public bus and subway transportation for which it supplies tokens. In its view, a shuttle bus would be prohibitively expensive since companies surveyed indicated that such service could cost at least $78,000. It also notes that the need could be short lived since plans are approved and a building selected to house all employees.

 

2. Parking

    a. The Union's Position

The Union proposes that "parking be made available on a cost-free basis at One Hanson Place to all employees who had designated parking on a cost-free basis at the 35 Tillary Street post of duty." It contends that this would do much to equalize working conditions of employees at the new location with those at Tillary Street. Furthermore, the availability of such parking fairly close to One Hanson Place would facilitate employees' trips from their offices to field assignments. Moreover, it does not believe that the Employer has made a vigorous effort to secure city-subsidized parking near the new site. The Union relies on a Panel decision(2) which adopted a provision requiring the Employer to seek delegated authority from the General Services Administration (GSA) to assist employees in securing free or reduced-fee parking.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer denies that it directly or indirectly subsidized parking for employees' privately owned vehicles at Tillary Street, and, therefore, proposes that the status quo be maintained. It believes that the only "subsidized" parking at Tillary Street is curbside space reserved by the Borough of Brooklyn for use by IRS employees whose vehicles display special permits on days when they have field assignments. Although the Employer distributes permits for such spaces, in its view, it is the Borough, not itself, which is the provider. Furthermore, it distributes more permits than there are spaces, and employees park in them on an as-needed, first-come basis, demonstrating the limited nature of such parking. Moreover, although it wrote to the Brooklyn Borough president on April 23, l990, requesting assistance in contacting the Borough's Department of Transportation to secure 21 reserved spaces at One Hanson Place, it received no response. It believes that further efforts would be futile because of potential opposition from residents.

 

3. Procedure for Handling Complaints

    a. The Union's Position

To facilitate prompt and effective attention to problems which may arise, the Union proposes that "management shall establish a procedure to receive and respond to employee  complaints regarding the facilities at One Hanson Place by designating a district director representative on site in accord with past practice." It argues that a person available in the building who understands its maintenance department and organization would be better able to respond to problems raised by employees. Furthermore, since the space is leased from private owners, unlike the GSA-operated Tillary Street building, the benefits from assistance within the building would be significant.

    b. The Employer's Position

As phrased, the Employer states that the Union's proposal may violate management's right to assign work under 5 U.S.C. 7106(a)(2)(B), and, therefore, be nonnegotiable. It points out that it initially designated a representative to receive and respond to employees' complaints on a temporary basis at One Hanson Place because problems are greater during the adjustment period immediately following a move. Currently, procedures available to employees at the Tillary Street building also may be used by those at One Hanson Place, and are adequate to resolve any problems which may arise.

CONCLUSIONS

Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that the dispute over shuttle bus service should be resolved by adoption of the Employer's proposal. In this regard, the availability of Employer-reimbursed public bus and subway transportation within walking distance of both buildings convinces us that additional expenditures to convey employees between the two buildings is unnecessary. While such service might afford greater security, other less costly means such as traveling in groups may be available to deal with the safety concerns of employees.

Turning to the parking issue, we conclude that the parties should resolve their dispute by adopting a compromise requiring the Employer to redouble its efforts to secure parking spaces from the Borough of Brooklyn. This is because the Employer's previous efforts in this regard appear halfhearted. While the availability of convenient reserved parking would be a significant benefit to employees on their way to field assignments, we are persuaded that the Employer should not be obligated to subsidize parking at the new location to any greater extent than it does at Tillary Street. Thus, we shall order that the Employer pursue another request to the Borough of Brooklyn for 21 street parking spaces adjacent to the One Hanson Place building. Such request is to include a complete explication of the parking needs of its employees, including the historical precedent for such accommodations. We also shall order that the Employer follow up its efforts to ensure that the request has been received and reviewed by the appropriate office, and send copies of all related correspondence to the Union within 1 week of mailing or receipt.

Finally, in addressing the Employer's nonnegotiability argument on the issue of an onsite procedure for employees' complaints, the Panel is guided by the Federal Labor Relations Authority's (FLRA) decision in Commander. Carswell Air Force Base Texas and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1364, 31 FLRA 620 (1988). In that case, the FLRA concluded that the Panel may apply existing case law to resolve an impasse where a duty-to-bargain issue arises. In this regard, the FLRA has consistently held that proposals which would require an agency to designate a specific management employee to perform certain functions are nonnegotiable.(3) The FLRA also has "advised" however, that defects of this type can be readily cured by removing any reference to a particular management employee.(4) It also has clarified that many procedures necessitate the assignment of work to fulfill their requirements.(5) Because the Panel, in the circumstances of this case, may in its discretion order the adoption of a modified version of the Union's proposal which cures such defects, or other appropriate solutions to the workplace problem identified, we see no purpose in delaying the resolution of this dispute by declining to retain jurisdiction.

Accordingly, we shall resolve the issue by ordering the parties to adopt a modified version of the Union's proposal requiring management, in accordance with the parties' past practice, to establish a procedure in which it identifies an individual within the building at One Hanson Place to receive and respond to onsite employee complaints regarding the facility. We are persuaded that assistance within the building would be more responsive to the needs of employees at the new location than if they were to rely on the procedure established at Tillary Street, as proposed by the Employer.

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 h