DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT HEADQUARTERS, U.S. ARMY DEPOT SYSTEM COMMAND CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA and LOCALS 1429 AND 1442, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES LOCAL F-170, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS, AFL-CIO LOCAL 358, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

LETTERKENNY ARMY DEPOT

HEADQUARTERS, U.S. ARMY DEPOT

SYSTEM COMMAND

CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

and

LOCALS 1429 AND 1442, NATIONAL

FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

LOCAL F-170, INTERNATIONAL

ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS, AFL-CIO

LOCAL 358, INTERNATIONAL

BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE

OFFICERS, AFL-CIO

Case No. 90 FSIP 176

 

DECISION AND ORDER

 

The Department of the Army, Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD), Headquarters, U.S. Army Depot System Command (HQDESCOM), Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Employer) 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 Locals 1429 and 1442, National Federation of Federal Employees, Local F-170, International Association of Firefighters, AFL-CIO, and Local 358, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, AFL-CIO (Unions).

After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference between Staff Associate Joseph Schimansky and the parties. If there were no settlement, he was to notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers and his recommendations for resolving the matter. Following consideration of this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse.

Mr. Schimansky met with the parties on August 1, 1990, but the issues at impasse were not resolved. He reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties, and the Panel has now considered the entire record, including his recommendations for settlement.

BACKGROUND

The Employer includes representatives of HQDESCOM(1) and LEAD, both of which are located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The primary mission of HQDESCOM is to control the operation of U.S. Army depots and related activities worldwide. LEAD is a subordinate activity of HQDESCOM whose primary mission is the receipt, storage, and shipment of Army materiel and equipment. The four Unions involved in the case represent LEAD employees. Local 1429, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), represents 2,100 Wage Grade (WG) employees, and Local 1442 of NFFE represents 1,140 General Schedule (GS) employees. Both currently are renegotiating collective bargaining agreements which expired in 1988. Local 358, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, represents 65 employees, and has a collective bargaining agreement which expires in August 1992. Local 170, International Association of Firefighters, represents 24 employees, and has an agreement which expired in 1988.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

The dispute essentially concerns an Employer-initiated proposal that HQDESCOM/AMCMEA and LEAD employees be merged into one competitive area(2) for reduction-in-force (RIF) purposes.(3) A second related issue involves the reemployment and repromotion rights of those employees who would be adversely affected by a RIF.

1. Competitive Areas

    a. The Employer's Position

The Employer's proposal to merge the existing HQDESCOM/AMCMEA and LEAD competitive areas into a single competitive area would promote long-term service efficiency "by providing the maximum number of placement opportunities for displaced employees of both organizations who have higher retention standing."(4) Thus, it would ensure that the best employees in terms of experience and performance, regardless of organization, are retained. Moreover, because many of the GS positions in the organizations are similar in type, the orientation period for employees moving from one to the other would result in only a minimum disruption to the work being done. Finally, merging the competitive areas also would ensure "fairness and equitability" for all employees at the installation, and is consistent with applicable RIF regulations and merit systems principles.

The Unions' proposal, on the other hand, "is certain to result in the demotion and separation of employees who otherwise would be placed if the competitive areas were merged." This represents "a kind of erosion of job security" for employees with retention standing in both organizations which would lead to lower morale and service efficiency. Further, the last part of the Unions' proposal, whereby leftover vacancies would be offered to employees in both organizations about to be separated, would deny such employees the benefits which accrue with retention standing, should they accept such offers. Moreover, even in the unlikely event that there are any vacant positions available for qualified employees who would otherwise be separated, "the skills and abilities of an employee in this situation are underutilized, further jeopardizing morale and productivity."

    b. The Union's Position

The Unions propose the following wording:

The areas of consideration for RIF's will be (1) LEAD and (2) DESCOM and AMCMEA. After conducting the RIF within each competitive area and after all personnel actions have been finalized, the following will occur: employees who would be separated within either competitive area will be offered vacant positions for which they qualify prior to being separated from Government service.

The Unions seek to maintain the status quo in which LEAD employees historically have had their own competitive area. In this regard, they are fearful that if the competitive areas are merged, HQDESCOM employees would "bump and retreat"(5) into LEAD positions, and displace members of the LEAD bargaining units, because their higher average grades would give them greater retention standing. Moreover, the negative impact of a merged competitive area on LEAD employees is likely to be exacerbated in light of"repeated reports" that in the future HQDESCOM is to be phased out entirely. LEAD employees do not wish to serve as "cushions" for displaced HQDESCOM employees, and are strongly opposed to a combined competitive area because, among other things, past promotions to HQDESCOM have been limited to the HQDESCOM area of consideration, "effectively excluding LEAD employees." Finally, the Employer has failed to show how merging competitive areas would benefit LEAD employees.

 

2. Reemployment and Repromotion Rights

    a. The Employer's Position

The following is the Employer's proposal:

When management decides to fill a continuing position for which there are qualified candidates available on a combined HQDESCOM and LEAD repromotion priority list who were displaced from positions of the same title, series, and grade level, then the employee with the highest retention standing will be selected for the position. 
If no selection is to be made from the repromotion priority list and there are qualified candidates available from the competitive area on a combined HQDESCOM and LEAD reemployment priority list who were displaced from positions in the same title, series, and grade level within the past 2 years, then the employee with the highest retention standing will be selected. 
If there are no repromotion or reemployment eligibles available in either of the above categories, then employees who are registered for positions in occupations other than those from which they were displaced will be referred for consideration and may or may not be selected.

While agreeing with the Unions that the mandatory placement of employees into positions previously held is reasonable, repromotion and reemployment of employees adversely affected by a RIF should be based on retention order standing without regard to previous organizational affiliation or bargaining-unit status. Its position in this regard "is consistent and inextricably linked with its reasoning in support of a merged competitive area." Once again, the adoption of its proposal would enable management to "place" the employee with the most experience and best performance regardless of such "non-merit factors" as bargaining-unit status. Moreover, this is consistent with merit systems principles and promotes service efficiency. The Unions' proposal, on the other hand, is inconsistent with merit systems principles, and unfair to employees adversely affected by a RIF who are not members of LEAD bargaining units. Its proposal is particularly unfair in organizations like HQDESCOM and LEAD where the nature of work and types of Positions are similar.

    b. The Union’s Position

The Unions propose that:

When management decides to fill a continuing position for which there are qualified candidates available on the repromotion priority list who were displaced from positions of the same title, series, and grade level, then the employee with the highest retention standing will be selected for the position. 
If no selection is to be made from the repromotion priority list and there are qualified candidates available from the competitive area on the reemployment priority list who were displaced from positions in the same title, series, and grade level (2 years) then the employees with the highest retention standing will be selected. 
If there are no repromotion or reemployment eligibles available in either of the above categories, then employees who are registered for positions in occupations other than those from which they were displaced, will be referred for consideration and may or may not be selected.

Their proposal would require that employees in LEAD be offered repromotion and reemployment opportunities based upon their retention standing on a local priority list. It would apply only to LEAD employees adversely affected by a RIF, and would afford them repromotion and reemployment to LEAD positions based upon retention standings within the LEAD competitive area. The last paragraph of the proposal would require the Employer to consider selecting employees who qualify for jobs "other than positions of the same title, series, and grade level from which they were downgraded or separated." The proposal is reasonable because it would make whole LEAD employees adversely affected by a RIF, and "is consistent with [Federal Personnel Manual] letter 330-16, Subchapter 1-9 and 1-11, which provides for alternative placement programs."

CONCLUSIONS

Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that the Unions' proposals provide a more reasonable basis for resolving the issues in dispute. In this regard, the Employer has failed to persuade us that the potential benefits of a merged competitive area would outweigh its adverse affects on LEAD employees. The current practice of separate competitive areas for HQDESCOM and LEAD was unilaterally established by the Employer(6) and has been in effect for a number of years. We are convinced that a change in competitive areas at a time when RIFs are imminent would be unfair to LEAD employees, particularly in the circumstances of this case where they have been denied HQDESCOM promotion opportunities in the past. The inherent uncertainties of the impact of a RIF serve to reinforce our belief that any change in the existing competitive areas in this case should be made only with the highest degree of justification.

The Unions' proposal, on the other hand, should create efficiencies in the operations of the separate activities in the case of a RIF because LEAD employees should be better suited than HQDESCOM employees to fill LEAD positions to which they might bump or retreat, and vice versa. In this regard, it is our understanding that many of the higher graded employees were promoted from within the ranks of their respective activities. Accordingly, they should be more familiar with the activity's operations and, therefore, should require less training to master the jobs into which they are Placed.

With respect to the second issue, the parties agree that employees separated from positions for budgetary reasons should be granted special opportunities in the area of repromotion and reemployment. Their sole dispute involves whether there should be one repromotion and reemployment priority list, which includes adversely affected employees from both HQDESCOM and LEAD eligible for positions in both activities, or a separate repromotion and reemployment priority list for each. In our view, the same reasons provided for maintaining separate competitive areas during a RIF at these activities should apply to the repromotion and reemployment opportunities granted to employees thereafter. Accordingly, we also shall order the adoption of the Unions' proposal to resolve this issue.

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:

1. Competitive Areas

The parties shall adopt the Unions' proposal.

2. Reemployment and Repromotion Rights

The parties shall adopt the Unions' proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Di