15:0461(96)NG - AFGE and EPA -- 1984 FLRAdec NG

[ v15 p461 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

 15 FLRA No. 96
                                            Case No. O-NG-539
    The petition for review in this case comes before the Authority
 pursuant to section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Federal Service
 Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and presents issues
 relating to the negotiability of two Union proposals.  /1/ Upon careful
 consideration of the entire record, including the parties' contentions,
 the Authority makes the following determinations.
                             Union Proposal 1
          We (the union) demand that bargaining (on ground rules) begin
    With respect to this proposal, the Agency argues that the obligation
 to bargain is limited to conditions of employment affecting bargaining
 unit employees, and that since ground rules do not fall within this
 category, the bargaining obligation does not attach.  However, in
 agreement with the Union, the Authority concludes that ground rules do
 affect conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees.
 Consequently, they are within the Agency's obligation to bargain.  /2/
 In this regard, in Department of Defense Dependent Schools and Overseas
 Education Association, 14 FLRA No. 40 (1984) where the Authority found
 an obligation to bargain over ground rules, the Authority stated:
          In performing their mutual obligation to bargain in good faith,
       the parties ordinarily would need to make certain preliminary
       arrangements such as the scheduling of the time, place, length and
       agenda of the meetings.  This is a necessary step in "meeting at
       reasonable times and convenient places" as required by section
       7114 of the Statute.  The fact that some parties mutually agree to
       set such preliminary arrangements apart and call them ground rules
       negotiations does not separate them from the collective bargaining
       process and the parties' mutual obligation to bargain in good
       faith.  (Footnote omitted.)
    Further, in Department of Health and Human Services, Region VII,
 Kansas City, Missouri and National Treasury Employees Union, 14 FLRA No.
 46 (1984) the Authority found that the agency therein had failed to meet
 its obligation to bargain in good faith when it refused the union's
 request to execute a written memorial of previously agreed-upon ground
 rules.  Thus, based upon Department of Defense Dependents Schools and
 Department of Health and Human Services, Region VII, and the reasons
 stated therein, Union Proposal 1, herein, is within the Agency's duty to
                             Union Proposal 2
          We (the union) propose to have three negotiators.
    It appears from the record that, for the negotiations to which Union
 Proposal 2 would apply, the Agency has advised the Union that it intends
 to have a single negotiator.  Under such circumstances, the Agency
 asserts, the Union's proposal conflicts with section 7131(a) of the
 Statute which "precludes a number of employee negotiators in excess of
 the number of management representatives." /3/
    The Agency's view that "the number of employees representing an
 exclusive representative in collective bargaining is entirely dependent
 on the number of individuals representing the agency" misconstrues the
 Statute.  The operative effect of section 7131(a) is to automatically
 entitle union negotiators to official time in any number which does not
 exceed the number designated by management.  The purpose of section
 7131(a) was to put exclusive representatives on a more equal footing
 with management, since, as Congress noted, management negotiators were
 almost without exception on official time when fulfilling that function.
  /4/ Thus, section 7131(a) does not limit the number of negotiators
 which a union can designate:  it only limits the number who will be
 entitled to official time for negotiations.
    However, there is no indication that C