DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS, XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS AND FORT BRAGG FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA and LOCAL 1770, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

HEADQUARTERS, XVIII AIRBORNE

CORPS AND FORT BRAGG

FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA

and

LOCAL 1770, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 90 FSIP 233

DECISION AND ORDER

Local 1770, American Federation 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 Army, Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Employer).

Following an investigation into the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to meet informally with Staff Associate Gladys M. Hernandez for the purpose of resolving the issue at impasse. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Ms. Hernandez would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers, and her recommendation for resolving the issue. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

On September 19, 1990, the parties met with Ms. Hernandez at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; however, they were unable to resolve their dispute. Thereafter, Ms. Hernandez reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties. The Panel has considered the entire record in the case.

BACKGROUND

The Employer provides medical and logistical support to approximately 40,000 Army troops stationed at Fort Bragg. The Union represents one bargaining unit of approximately 3,700 General Schedule and Wage Grade employees who hold jobs in various administrative, technical, and clerical fields, as well as in trades and crafts, and a second unit consisting of approximately 100 nurses. The parties' 3-year multi-unit collective-bargaining agreement is in effect until April 2, 1992.

Pursuant to a settlement of an unfair labor practice charge filed by the Union, the parties entered into groundrules negotiations for all impact-and-implementation bargaining which might occur during the term of their collective-bargaining agreement. Agreement was reached on all issues, with the exception of official time.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The parties disagree over the amount of official time for Union representatives to prepare for impact-and-implementation bargaining.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union's Position

Under the Union's proposal, in addition to official time for negotiations authorized under section 7131(a) of the Statute, it would receive the following: (1) a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 60 hours of official time to prepare proposals; (2) a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 60 hours to prepare during bilateral negotiations, and a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 20 hours during breaks in negotiations of 1 week or longer; (3) a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 60 hours to prepare for mediation; and (4) a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 90 hours to prepare for impasse proceedings, and an additional minimum of 10 to a maximum of 90 hours to prepare written submissions, if ordered by the Panel to resolve the dispute. The minimum times proposed correspond to the amount of time necessary to investigate and prepare for negotiations over the "typical" impact-and-implementation issue, which often concerns the Employer's relocation of an employee from one work area to another.

The official time provided under the contract does not include preparation time for impact-and-implementation bargaining.(1) Moreover, a steward's unused contractual bank hours each pay period cannot be carried forward, nor can they be used by Union officers when their time is depleted, which is always the case. By insisting that stewards use their bank time to prepare for impact-and-implementation bargaining, the Employer is foreclosing Union officers from taking part in preparations for impact-and-implementation bargaining and, therefore, dictating who can represent the Union in such negotiations.

There are numerous instances when the Union has not been able to pursue impact-and-implementation bargaining because the Employer refused to provide official time to do so. Those matters which the Union pursues are handled by its representatives on their own time.

The Employer authorizes the Union official time for preparation only when it wants to move an issue forward in a timely manner, as, for example, the smoking policy, recruitment and placement plan, performance management system, and disciplinary rules. Given the parties' history concerning official time, a "reasonable time" standard would tend to lead to litigation over the interpretation. Guaranteed blocks of time, on the other hand, would minimize disputes over the issue, thereby allowing the parties to spend their time more productively. The Union would not abuse the allotted blocks of time, as is evidenced by the stewards' responsible use of their guaranteed block of time under the labor agreement. Since the Employer has stated that no amount of time is "reasonable," it would not be prudent to give the Employer discretion over official time to prepare for impact-and-implementation bargaining. A minimum block of time would at least guarantee the Union some time to prepare. Finally, lack of preparation time impedes the Union in carrying out its statutory mandate to represent bargaining-unit employees in a responsible manner.

2. The Employer's Position

The Employer argues that "the total amount of official time available to officials [of the Union] for [section] 7131(d) representational activities is set forth in article VI of the parties' current[] [] collective-bargaining agreement." Since there is an existing contract provision in effect which covers this matter, the Panel should order the Union to withdraw its proposal. In the alternative, the Employer essentially proposes that Union representatives receive a reasonable amount of official time "based upon the circumstances of the situation at hand" for preparation or presentation of bargaining proposals.

The record indicates that over a 16-month period beginning in April 1989, 87 of the 108 unit employees who served as Union stewards used less than one-third of the total number of hours available under the collective-bargaining agreement; therefore, because of the Union's gross underutilization of available official time, no additional time for preparation purposes should be awarded. Normally, the parties do not negotiate over the typical subjects concerning impact-and-implementation bargaining, namely, management-initiated movement of an employee from one work area to another. If they did, such matters could be handled by stewards at the job site utilizing the available contractual official time, thereby encouraging the Union to use the steward system effectively.

An allocation of preparation time should be made on a case-by-case basis, dictated by the nature and complexity of the issue. Given this, the "reasonable time" standard, not a specific block of time, is the only viable standard for allocating preparation time in the context of impact-and-implementation bargaining. In this regard, the past practice has been that the Union is provided with official time to prepare proposals, as well as additional preparation time if the matter proceeds to mediation and impasse resolution. On the more complicated "big package" issues, i.e., smoking policy, recruitment and placement plan, performance management system, and disciplinary rules, the Union has been provided with appropriate amounts of official time.

CONCLUSIONS

Upon evaluating the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the resolution of this dispute should be the parties' adoption of the Employer's alternative proposal for "reasonable time."(2) We are persuaded that the time allotted to prepare for impact-and-implementation bargaining should be determined by the nature and complexity of the subject matter to be negotiated. The allocation of official time, therefore, should be made on a case-by-case basis. The weight of the evidence indicates that under this standard, Union representatives have been afforded adequate amounts of official time to prepare for impact-and-implementation negotiations, particularly with respect to complex, multi-issue negotiations involving, among other working conditions, a base-wide smoking policy and recruitment and placement plan. Moreover, the Union has failed to demonstrate a need for the rather large cumulative minimum and maximum blocks of time for preparation which it has proposed. These blocks of time appear to be excessive given the relative simplicity of the typical impact-and-implementation issues and the limited purpose for such time.

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 the proceedings instituted under 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 Employer's alternative proposal as follows:

In addition to the official time authorized under section 7131(a) of the Statute for at-the-table negotiations, it may be appropriate for the Union to request additional official time to prepare proposals/presentations during any mediation/impasse proceedings. If a need for such time is identified, the Union president and Chief, MER/CPO will discuss the matter and mutually agree upon a reasonable amount of official time based upon the circumstances of the situation at hand.

 <