DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE COLORADO AIR NATIONAL GUARD ENGLEWOOD, COLORADO and MILE HIGH CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS
In the Matter of )
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE )
COLORADO AIR NATIONAL GUARD )
ENGLEWOOD, COLORADO )
and ) Case No. 91 FSIP 26
MILE HIGH CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION )
OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS )
The Mile High Chapter, Association of Civilian Technicians (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 Air Force, Colorado Air National Guard, Englewood, Colorado (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.
The Employer is a state militia and reserve component of the U.S. Air Force whose mission is to service aircraft, operate and maintain air fields, provide training, and maintain a state of readiness for wartime as well as certain domestic missions. The Union represents a bargaining unit consisting of approximately 500
employees; of those, approximately 350 hold positions as civilian technicians under Title 32; the others are Title 5 employees who hold positions such as avionics technician, communications equipment repairman, hydraulic technician, aircraft mechanic, electrician, firefighter, and payroll clerk. On February 28, 1991, the parties executed a new collective-bargaining agreement which is in effect for 3 years. Issues concerning a smoking policy were severed during term negotiations.
Bargaining-unit employees are physically located in about 12 buildings at Buckley Air National Guard Base; while there are other tenant organizations on the base, bargaining-unit employees are collocated with employees of other agencies in only 1 or 2 buildings. Other bargaining-unit employees are stationed at a radar facility in Greeley, Colorado, and occupy exclusively the two buildings there.
ISSUES AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over the establishment of designated-smoking areas and breaks for smokers.
1. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes that smoking be banned in buildings as well as in aircraft or vehicles operated by the Colorado Air National Guard; the restriction would not apply to outdoor areas, privately-owned vehicles, and the Camana Club, a social eating establishment. Smoking cessation clinics would continue to be offered to employees at no cost to them. With respect to smoke breaks, they would be considered rest periods and, therefore, subject to the time limitations stated in existing regulations.
According to the Employer, its proposal would fully implement the Adjutant General's "Policy for a Smoke-free Workplace" which was first issued in 1985. Banning smoking indoors is consistent with the recommendations of the U.S. Surgeon General who has labeled smoking the largest single preventable cause of death in America. Furthermore, eliminating smoking in the workplace would tend to encourage smokers to kick the habit -- a desired result since a study conducted in 1983 by Dr. William Weiss of Seattle University shows that employees who smoke cost employers more in terms of absenteeism, medical care, and lost productivity. A ban on indoor smoking would protect nonsmokers from the risks associated with breathing second-hand tobacco smoke.
The Employer maintains that its proposal is consistent with the Panel's interest, as set forth in several prior decisions concerning smoking policies, to provide employees with a smoke-free workplace, while accommodating smokers, when feasible. Reasonably accessible smoking areas currently exist outside to accommodate smokers. To construct enclosed and heated outdoor smoking shelters would be a costly venture; moreover, taxpayers should not be asked to finance employees' smoking habits since smoking usually results in loss of good health and, therefore, would interfere with the Employer's mission to maintain a ready workforce. A survey taken in 1989 revealed that approximately 26 percent of all full-time employees smoke; since smokers are in the minority, the Employer should not be required to incur any significant costs to accommodate them. Finally, as a further accommodation to smokers, the Employer would continue to offer, free of charge, smoking cessation clinics for employees and their immediate family members and, when possible, on duty time.
With respect to breaks, smokers should be limited to smoking during their lunch and rest breaks; pursuant to Technician Personnel Regulation 610.1, "the rest break may not exceed 15 minutes during each 4 hours of continuous work." Therefore, not only would it be inequitable to give smokers unlimited breaks as the Union proposes, since nonsmokers are not entitled to them, it also would be contrary to regulations.
2. The Union's Position
The Union proposes that designated-smoking and no-smoking areas should be established throughout all facilities. Smoking areas should have adequate space and ventilation and be furnished with enough chairs to accommodate a reasonable number of smokers at one time. Smoke breaks may be taken in addition to rest breaks, providing employees do not abuse the privilege. The Employer should continue to offer smoking cessation clinics at no cost to employees, and employees should not be harassed for using tobacco while on the job.
Essentially, the Union contends that adopting its proposal would tend to ensure equitable treatment for smokers and nonsmokers. Since nonsmokers have been provided with ventilated, heated, and otherwise environmentally-protected areas in which to rest, eat, or socialize in comfort, the same accommodation should be provided to employees who smoke. This would be a preferable arrangement for smokers rather than the current outdoor-smoking areas which are neither equipped to allow an employee to eat, rest, or socialize in comfort, nor do they provide protection from the
elements. An environmentally-protected area is needed for smokers since the weather most of the year is snowy, windy, rainy, or sub-zero in temperature. The Union maintains that its proposal is consistent with several decisions of t