18:0511(69)CA - SSA and AFGE -- 1985 FLRAdec CA



[ v18 p511 ]
18:0511(69)CA
The decision of the Authority follows:


 18 FLRA No. 69
 
 SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 
 Respondent 
 
 and 
 
 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT 
 EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO 
 Charging Party
 
                                            Case No. 3-CA-1960
 
                            DECISION AND ORDER
 
    The Administrative Law Judge issued his Decision in the
 above-entitled proceeding, finding that the Respondent had engaged in
 certain unfair labor practices alleged in the complaint and recommending
 that it be ordered to cease and desist therefrom and take certain
 affirmative action.  The Judge found further that the Respondent had not
 engaged in certain other unfair labor practices alleged in the
 complaint, and recommended dismissal of that portion of the complaint.
 Thereafter, the Respondent filed exceptions to the Judge's Decision, and
 a supporting brief, and the Charging Party filed an opposition to the
 Respondent's exceptions, and a supporting brief.  /1/
 
    Pursuant to section 2423.29 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations
 and section 7118 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations
 Statute (the Statute), the Authority has reviewed the rulings of the
 Judge made at the hearing and finds that no prejudicial error was
 committed.  The rulings are hereby affirmed.  Upon consideration of the
 Judge's Decision and the entire record, the Authority hereby adopts the
 Judge's findings, /2/ conclusions and recommended Order, as modified
 herein.
 
    In adopting the Judge's Decision, the Authority agrees that the
 Respondent failed to bargain in good faith with the Union at the
 national level, the level of exclusive recognition, regarding the
 procedures to be observed and appropriate arrangements for employees
 adversely affected by implementation of its Quality Improvement Project
 (QIP).  See Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security
 Administration, 10 FLRA 77 (1982) and Department of Health and Human
 Services, Social Security Administration, 6 FLRA 202 (1981).
 
    Upon finding a violation, the Judge recommended that a status quo
 ante remedy be ordered, and the Respondent excepted to the imposition of
 such remedy.  Contrary to the Judge, the Authority concludes that a
 status quo ante remedy is not warranted.  Thus, balancing the nature and
 circumstances of the violation against the degree of disruption in
 government operations that would be caused by such a remedy, and taking
 into consideration the various factors set forth in Federal Correctional
 Institution, 8 FLRA 604 (1982), the Authority concludes that such remedy
 would not effectuate the purposes and policies of the Statute.
 
    In this regard, the Respondent gave the Union adequate notice of its
 intention to implement its QIP and the opportunity to request
 negotiations.  Further, upon the Union's request to bargain over the
 impact and implementation of the QIP, the Respondent voluntarily
 suspended all QIP actions pending negotiations and thereafter met with
 the Union.  Finally, the Authority finds that the object of the QIP, to
 ensure uniformity of quality improvement in order to enhance the
 effectiveness of the Respondent's operations, is an important management
 objective which would be significantly impaired by a return to the
 status quo.  See Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service,
 Jacksonville, Florida, 15 FLRA No. 187 (1984).  Although the Authority
 notes, as found by the Judge, that in all the circumstances such meeting
 did not amount to bargaining in good faith, after balancing the nature
 and circumstances of the violation against the degree of disruption in
 the Respondent's operations that would be caused by a status quo ante
 remedy, and taking into consideration the factors set forth in Federal
 Correctional Institution, supra, the Authority concludes that such
 remedy is not warranted in the particular circumstances of this case.
 
                                   ORDER
 
    Pursuant to section 2423.29 of the Federal Labor Relations
 Authority's Rules and Regulations and section 7118 of the Statute, it is
 hereby ordered that the Social Security Administration, Baltimore,
 Maryland, shall:
 
    1.  Cease and desist from:
 
    (a) Unilaterally implementing its Quality Improvement Project without
 bargaining in good faith with the American Federation of Government
 Employees, AFL-CIO, its employees' exclusive representative, at the
 level of exclusive recognition, concerning procedures to be observed and
 appropriate arrangements for employees adversely affected by the
 implementation of such program.
 
    (b) In any like or related manner interfering with, restraining, or
 coercing its employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the
 Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
 
    2.  Take the following affirmative action in order to effectuate the
 purposes and policies of the Statute:
 
    (a) Notify the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO,
 concerning any planned Quality Improvement Project, and, upon request,
 negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative concerning
 procedures to be observed and appropriate arrangements for employees
 adversely affected by the implementation of the Quality Improvement
 Project.
 
    (b) Post at its Office of Assessments facilities, copies of the
 attached Notice on forms to be furnished by the Federal Labor Relations
 Authority.  Upon receipt of such forms, they shall be signed by an
 appropriate representative of the Respondent and they shall be posted
 and maintained for 60 consecutive days thereafter, in conspicuous
 places, including all bulletin boards and other places where notices to
 employees are customarily posted.  Reasonable steps shall be taken to
 insure that such Notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any
 other material.
 
    (c) Pursuant to section 2423.30 of the Authority's Rules and
 Regulations, notify the Regional Director, Region III, Federal Labor
 Relations Authority, in writing, within 30 days from the date of this
 Order, as to what steps have been taken to comply herewith.
 
    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the portion of the complaint found not to
 have violated the Statute, be, and it hereby is, dismissed.  
 
 Issued, Washington, D.C., June 21, 1985
 
                                       Henry B. Frazier III, Acting
                                       Chairman
                                       William J. McGinnis, Jr., Member
                                       FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
 
 
 
 
 
                          NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES
 
  PURSUANT TO A DECISION AND ORDER OF THE FEDERAL LABOR
 RELATIONS
 AUTHORITY AND IN ORDER TO EFFECTUATE THE POLICIES OF CHAPTER 71
 OF TITLE
 5 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE FEDERAL SERVICE LABOR-MANAGEMENT
 RELATIONS
 WE HEREBY NOTIFY OUR EMPLOYEES THAT:
 
    WE WILL NOT unilaterally implement a Quality Improvement Project
 without bargaining in good faith with the American Federation of
 Government Employees, AFL-CIO, our employees' exclusive representative,
 at the level of exclusive recognition, concerning procedures to be
 observed and appropriate arrangements for employees adversely affected
 by the implementation of such program.
 
    WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner interfere with, restrain,
 or coerce our employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the
 Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
 
    WE WILL notify the American Federation of Government Employees,
 AFL-CIO, concerning any planned Quality Improvement Project, and, upon
 request, negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative
 concerning procedures to be observed and appropriate arrangements for
 employees adversely affected by the implementation of the Quality
 Improvement Project.
                                       (Activity)
 
    Dated:  By:  (Signature) (Title)
 
    This Notice must remain posted for 60 consecutive days from the date
 of posting, and must not be altered, defaced, or covered by any other
 material.
 
    If employees have any questions concerning this Notice or compliance
 with its provisions, they may communicate directly with the Regional
 Director, Region III, Federal Labor Relations Authority whose address
 is:  P.O. Box 33758, Washington, D.C. 20033-0758 and whose telephone
 number is:  (202) 653-8456.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 -------------------- ALJ$ DECISION FOLLOWS --------------------
 
    Francis X. Dippel
    Jack Goodman
    Carl Clayton
    For the Respondent
 
    Clara M. Williamson
    For the General Counsel
 
    Before:  ELI NASH, JR., Administrative Law Judge
 
                                 DECISION
 
                           Statement of the Case
 
    This case arose pursuant to the Federal Service Labor-Management
 Relations Statute, 92 Stat. 1191, 5 U.S.C. 7101 et seq. (hereinafter
 called the Statute), as a result of an unfair labor practice Complaint
 and Notice of Hearing issued April 30, 1981 by the Regional Director,
 Region 3, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Washington, D.C.
 
    The Complaint alleges that the Social Security Administration
 hereinafter called "the Respondent" violated Section 7116(a)(1) and (5)
 of the Statute by engaging in a course of conduct designed to circumvent
 its bargaining obligation at a national level with American Federation
 of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, herein called "the Union";  and
 violated Section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute by failing to properly
 respond to the Union's request for information submitted on September 8,
 1980.  Respondent's answer denied the commission of any unfair labor
 practices.
 
    A hearing in this matter was conducted before the undersigned in
 Baltimore, Maryland.  All parties were represented and afforded full
 opportunity to be heard, to examine and cross-examine witnesses, to
 introduce evidence and to argue orally.  Briefs were filed and have been
 duly considered.
 
    Upon the entire record in this matter, including my observation of
 the witnesses and their demeanor, and from my evaluation of the
 evidence, I make the following findings of facts, conclusion and
 recommendations.
 
                             Findings of Fact
 
    1.  On or about August 30, 1979, the Union was certified as the
 exclusive bargaining representative for all non-supervisory Social
 Security employees, in a national consolidated unit.  The National
 Council of Social Security Field Assessment Locals, hereinafter called
 "the Council", has held national exclusive recognition for approximately
 600 employees nation-wide in the Office of Assessment since 1978.  /3/
 Nine local unions comprise the Council.
 
    2.  Sometime around April 29, 1980, Respondent sent a proposed
 Quality Improvement Project, hereinafter referred to as "the QIP", to
 the Union.  Basically the QIP is a system which established additional
 reviews, procedures for Quality Review Specialist employees in the
 Office of Assessment by both supervisors and other Quality Review
 Specialists.  The Union was concerned with the potential adverse effect
 on Quality Review Specialists by such additional reviews;  that position
 descriptions of Quality Review Specialists did not provide that they
 would be required to review the work of other Quality Review
 Specialists, and to this extent, the QIP imposed additional job duties
 on bargaining unit employees which were not contained in their official
 position descriptions.
 
    3.  The Union had been first advised of the proposed QIP in early
 May, 1979.  On June 20, 1979, the Union submitted comments to the
 proposed QIP and made a request to negotiate on all aspects of the
 proposed program.  The Union heard nothing further about QIP until March
 1980, when several local unions contacted the Council President, Earl
 Tucker to ask whether he knew anything about the implementation of QIP.
 Tucker then contacted Respondent where he learned that the current QIP
 package had already been transmitted to the Field Assessment Officers
 and to the Union.  However, the Union did not receive a copy of the
 document until around May 9, 1980.  In a covering memorandum to Tucker
 dated April 29, 1980 Respondent stated:
 
          Since the formulation of the plans is a regional activity, I
       feel that dialogue between management and the union be left to the
       appropriate FAO managers, and AFGE locals.  Therefore, I have
       instructed FAO management to meet and negotiate with the
       appropriate AFGE locals . . .
 
    The Union responded to the proposed QIP by letter dated May 9, 1980,
 in which it demanded to negotiate the QIP at the national level and that
 no action be taken in any region to negotiate or implement any aspect of
 the QIP until national negotiations had been completed.
 
    4.  Respondent replied to the May 9, 1980 demands by memorandum of
 June 13, 1980, which stated:
 
          We have reviewed your memorandum regarding the Quality
       Improvement Project (QIP).  While we do not believe that all
       aspects of the Project are negotiable, we recognize that there
       could be elements of the QIP with impact on conditions employment
       which are appropriate for negotiation at the Associate
       Commissioner/National Council level.
 
    5.  Around September 8, 1980, the Union submitted its proposals
 concerning the impact and implementation of the QIP and requested a
 "rather lengthy and detailed study, including much QAFO/QASO input . .
 ." which was specifically referred to in the proposed QIP submitted to
 the Union under the section entitled "Ongoing Reviews", under Tab II.
 
    6.  About November 3, 1980, the Union received a memorandum from
 Respondent stating that impact bargaining on the QIP and the ground
 rules for mid-term bargaining on the national agreement would be held at
 Respondent's headquarters on November 18 and 19, 1980.  Upon receipt of
 that memorandum, Tucker contacted Respondent's Chief Negotiator, Martin
 Mettee, to complain that Respondent was unilaterally establishing time
 frames for negotiations, which was improper as they were equal partners
 and the dates for negotiations should have been mutually decided.
 
    7.  On November 10, 1980, Respondent replied to the Union's proposals
 submitted on September 8, 1980. In regard to the Union's request for
 information received from Field Assessment Office Components, Respondent
 stated that this information was adequately explained in the covering
 memorandum of the QIP Package of February 26, 1980 and in the package
 itself.  In this memorandum, Respondent also stated that its position
 had been upheld by the Federal Labor Relations Authority in Case
 3-CA-1407.  In that case the Regional Director found that further
 proceedings were unwarranted since the Union's request for the
 information appeared to be vague and overbroad.  That case, however,
 concerned only the information requested in item 1 of the Union's letter
 of July 17, 1980.  In its memorandum, Respondent failed to identify
 which of the Union's proposals it contended were nonnegotiable, but
 instead indicated that some of such proposals concerned the substance of
 the QIP.  On November 14, 1980, the Union requested that Respondent
 identify which proposals it felt were nonnegotiable.  By memorandum
 dated November 17, 1980, Respondent answered the Union's request saying,
 "By 'substance' we mean all of the guidelines outlined in the QIP
 package dated February 26, 1980." Respondent added that it would not
 provide the Union with the additional information requested, as in its
 estimation any more than the basic QIP was irrelevant to impact and
 implementation bargaining.  The union apparently did not respond to this
 statement.
 
    8.  The Union's Chief Negotiator for QIP, Barbara Weller, whose duty
 station is San Francisco, California received a telephone call from
 Respondent's Chief Negotiator, Martin Mettee, on or about September 24,
 1980, during which Mettee informed her that Respondent was prepared to
 negotiate on ground rules and asked if the Union would be willing to
 negotiate on the QIP at the same time.  After discussing this matter
 with Council President Earl Tucker, Weller contacted Mettee and stated
 that the Union would agree to go ahead and negotiate QIP, but that they
 would have to have at least one day or one half day following
 negotiations on the ground rules before negotiations on the QIP
 commenced.  Mettee informed her that this would be fine, and there would
 be no problem.  Weller also asked, when Respondent would reply to the
 September 8, 1980 Union proposals, and he stated that the response would
 be forthcoming within a week or so.  Mettee again contacted Weller
 during the latter part of October, 1980 and stated that Respondent was
 setting up November 18 and 19, 1980 as dates for negotiations.  Weller
 voiced concern that Respondent was limiting the Union's negotiating time
 and that the Union would need additional time following negotiations on
 the ground rules in order to prepare for QIP negotiations.  Weller
 reminded Mettee that the Union had not received a response to its
 proposals and that it would be necessary to know Respondent's position
 in order to even prepare for negotiations.  In addition, Weller informed
 Mettee that the Union might need more time than November 18 and 19, to
 which he replied, there would be no problem if they needed to extend the
 time.
 
    9.  On November 6, 1980, Weller received Respondent's memorandum
 scheduling the negotiations for November 18 and 19, 1980.  Weller then
 contacted Mettee and informed him that the Union would need more time
 than two days for the negotiations.  Mettee told her that those were
 tentative dates, that the Union would not have to worry about getting
 additional time and that the travel orders could be amended.  Weller
 again informed Mettee that the Union had not received its response.  She
 explained to him that November 11, 1980 was a holiday and that she was
 going to Los Angeles, California to conduct training on Thursday and
 Friday of the following week.  Weller subsequently received Respondent's
 response on November 10, 1980.
 
    10.  Negotiations on the ground rules began at approximately 9:00
 a.m. on November 18, 1980 and were completed at approximately 2:30 p.m.
 Discussions on the QIP began shortly thereafter at approximately 3:00
 p.m.  The Union was allowed an additional person for the QIP
 negotiations, and Barry Nelson joined the Union's negotiating team
 during the afternoon of November 18, 1980.  The QIP was discussed for
 approximately one hour during which time Respondent provided some
 general information to the Union concerning the QIP.  The parties
 adjourned negotiations at approximately 4:00 p.m., and the Union went
 into caucus to work on additional QIP proposals, based on information it
 had gained during the afternoon discussions.  The Union negotiators
 worked on these proposals into the evening and returned to caucus at
 approximately 8:00 a.m., the following morning.
 
    11.  At approximately 9:30 a.m. on November 19, 1980 the Union
 negotiating team informed President Earl Tucker, who was not a member of
 the QIP negotiation team, but was at the National Office to negotiate
 the ground rules, that they had not finished work on the proposals.
 Tucker almost immediately thereafter contacted Bill Wolfe, a member of
 the Respondent's negotiating team, and explained that the Union's
 negotiating team was still in caucus and would not be available at 10:00
 a.m.  Tucker stated that the Union would attempt to be ready by 12:30.
 Tucker also explained to Wolfe that there was a minor problem with the
 ground rules which he had seen on the evening of November 18, 1980 but,
 that only a cosmetic change needed to be made, and Wolfe replied that it
 would be no problem.  Barry Nelson, a member of the Union negotiating
 team received a telephone call from Bill Wolfe in the Union's caucus
 room at approximately 12:30 p.m. during which Wolfe asked where the
 Union negotiating team was.  Nelson informed him that they were in the
 caucus room preparing counterproposals based on information received the
 day before.  Wolfe ordered the Union to have someone back at the table
 by 1:00 p.m.  Wolfe then stated that the members of the Union
 negotiating team had travel orders to be at negotiations, that they were
 supposed to be at negotiations, and that they only had the rest of the
 day to reach agreement because the travel orders required that the Union
 team return to their duty stations the following day.  He also stated
 that if they were not in travel status the following day, they would be
 placed on AWOL.  Nelson then told Wolfe that his understanding was that
 additional time would be granted if necessary and that he felt it
 improper for Respondent to try to coerce the Union into reaching an
 agreement by imposing artificial deadlines.  Nelson warned that
 Respondent did not have the right to limit the Union's caucus time.  At
 this point, Tucker entered the room and requested to speak with Wolfe.
 Tucker informed Wolfe that the team was still caucusing.  Wolfe
 responded that management was waiting and wanted to resume negotiations.
  Tucker stated that he wanted to talk with Wolfe about the ground rules
 in order to make the cosmetic changes required in order to bring the
 agreement in conformance with law.  Tucker, Nelson and another member of
 the negotiating team then went to the negotiation room.  Tucker pointed
 out that Respondent was ordering the Union team around and trying to
 control the whole process.  Tucker explained that the Union wanted
 several changes in the ground rules including changes concerning
 official time being granted for negotiators only at the negotiating
 table.  The Union wanted the rules altered to reflect that official
 time, travel, and per diem would continue through procedures before the
 Impasses Panel.  The Union also wanted to add a provision to reflect
 that either party could caucus.  Respondent's team then caucused for
 about 5 minutes regarding these requested changes and returned stating
 that they could not agree to those changes and that the negotiations
 were at impasse.  Respondent requested to resume negotiations on the
 QIP, however, Tucker informed them that, in light of prior experience
 with Respondent, he would not subject his team to negotiations without
 ground rules.
 
    12.  Although Tucker stated that he would attempt to contact a
 mediator, he was unable to do so that day.  He called Mettee at about
 3:00 p.m. but, was unable to talk with him until around 4:00 p.m.
 During this conversation, Tucker informed Mettee that although he had
 been unable to obtain a mediator, the Union had reconsidered its
 position and would negotiate on the QIP before the ground rules were
 finalized.  Mettee then informed Tucker that the management team had
 gone home.  Tucker requested that they resume negotiations on the QIP
 the following day at 9:00 a.m.  Mettee stated that would be impossible
 since Respondent's team would be attending a going-away party for
 negotiator Bill Wolfe on that day.  The Union then received a memorandum
 from Respondent dated November 19, 1980, ordering the Union negotiators
 to return to their official duty stations, since it concluded that only
 two days had been allotted for these negotiations.  The Union responded
 on November 20 that the agreement to conclude negotiations in only two
 days was tentative.  The Union contended that additional time would be
 granted if the negotiations were not completed in two days and that
 refusal to grant additional time was in bad faith.
 
    13.  Thereafter, the problem with the ground rules were subsequently
 resolved in a 5 minute telephone conversation between Earl Tucker and an
 agency representative on November 20, 1980.  Language was added that
 either party could caucus and that the agreement would be in accord with
 the Civil Service Reform Act.
 
    14.  The Union replied to the above memorandum on November 20, 1980,
 emphasizing that the setting of two days for negotiations was tentative
 and that the Union had been told that additional time would be granted,
 if necessary.  The Union also emphasized that curtailment of its caucus
 time constituted bargaining in bad faith.  The Union submitted
 additional proposals along with this memorandum.
 
    15.  Respondent thereafter distributed a memorandum dated December
 23, 1980, to its Field Assessment Offices entitled "Resumption of the
 Quality Improvement Project-- Action".  This memorandum stated, in
 pertinent part:
 
          As you are probably aware, discussions with the National
       Council of SSA Field Assessment Locals regarding the impact and
       implementation of the Quality Improvement Project (QIP) were
       broken off on November 19, 1980, for a variety of reasons, most
       notably a lack of concrete proposals.  Since that time, the
       Council has submitted additional proposals which will be addressed
       at a later time.
 
          Management feels that it has met its obligation to meet with
       the Union on a national basis and feels no obligation to delay
       further development of local QIP plans.  Therefore, effective
       immediately, my memo of June 2, 1980, suspending the QIP is
       rescinded.  Preparations should commence for developing local QIP
       plans as instructed in my memo of February 26, 1980.
 
          From the beginning it has been my contention that since QIP
       plans are to be developed by field managers and tailored to the
       needs of individual components, management's obligation to
       negotiate with the Union regarding the impact of any changes in
       personnel policies, practices, and procedures which may result
       from the plans, as well as the procedures for implementation,
       should be undertaken at the local level.  I trust that your field
       managers will meet with the appropriate local Union
       representatives prior to the implementation of their QIP plans.
 
    16.  By memorandum dated January 26, 1981, Respondent answered Union
 proposals submitted on November 20, 1980.  This memorandum stating that:
 
          It has always been our contention that negotiations on the
       impact and implementation of the QIP are more appropriate at the
       local level since each QIP plan will be tailored to the needs and
       requirements of each office . . .
 
    17.  On January 26, 1981, the Union replied to Respondent's
 memorandum of December 23, 1980, demanding that the parties return to
 the bargaining table on the QIP.  On or about February 10, 1981, the
 Union received a memorandum from Respondent entitled "Resumption of the
 Quality Improvement Project (Your Memo dated January 26, 1981)
 Information," which stated in pertinent portions:
 
          As you are aware, we directed our Field Assessment Offices to
       resume efforts toward the development of Quality Improvement
       Project (QIP) plans by memo dated December 23, 1980.  Our plans
       are unchanged.
 
          We do not believe that resuming formal negotiations on the
       matter is appropriate . . . .  As you know, we did agree to some
       of your proposals.  Others, however were issues which we explained
       were either not negotiable or were more appropriate for bargaining
       at the local level . . . regarding the appropriate bargaining
       level, it has been our position from the beginning that the impact
       and implementation of QIP plans is more appropriate at the level
       where the plans are to be developed and implemented . . . we have
       instructed our FAO's to carry on negotiations with the appropriate
       local Union officials . . .
 
    18.  On or about February 3, 1981, Barry Nelson called Martin Mettee
 and inquired if Respondent intended to implement the QIP.  Mettee
 informed Nelson that Respondent's intention was to implement.  Nelson
 requested that Respondent not implement the program and return to the
 bargaining table, that the Union thought they had something to
 negotiate, and that the Union was willing to negotiate and reach
 agreement which would be satisfactory to all parties.  Nelson stated
 that Respondent was going to implement and would not return to the
 bargaining table.
 
                        Discussion and Conclusions
 
    It is conceded by Respondent that it had an obligation to bargain
 about the impact and implementation of the QIP at the national level.
 Respondent however, contends that it did everything conceivable to
 comply with its obligation to negotiate the impact and implementation of
 the QIP including giving the Union the QIP package almost two years in
 advance of the proposed implementation;  withdrawing and revising the
 all-inclusive QIP package to include concerns from the Union;  reissuing
 the revised QIP package and arranging for negotiations of any further
 counter-proposals;  arranging time, place and travel for Union
 negotiators;  meeting with the Union at the prearranged date and time;
 offering no counter-proposals during the prearranged dates;  and its
 considering non-negotiable counter-proposals offered two days after the
 parties disbanded.  Respondent also points out that the QIP was
 implemented in only three of ten regions involved.
 
    On the other hand, the General Counsel maintains that Respondent,
 engaged in surface bargaining at the national level and did not approach
 negotiations with any resolve to reach agreement.  The General Counsel
 argues that Respondent sought to bargain concerning QIP at the local
 level and that its action at the national level bargaining sessions of
 November 18 and 19, 1980 were a sham designed to cover its real motive.
 The record clearly shows that despite the fact that a certification of
 consolidated unit issued in August 1979, Respondent was insistent that
 negotiations were more appropriate at the local level and that the Union
 sought to bargain at least the impact and implementation of QIP at the
 national level.  Thus, the record indicates that both before and after
 the November negotiations Respondent made no secret that it felt that
 QIP negotiations should be at the local level and ignored Union
 exhortations to the contrary.  The pivotal question here is whether
 Respondent's conduct herein was designed to circumvent the national
 obligation to negotiate and channel bargaining on QIP to the local
 level.
 
    It is hornbook law that an employer does not meet its obligation to
 bargain merely by meeting with the representative of its employees.
 Either party to a bargaining relationship must maintain the intention of
 reaching a negotiated agreement.  Moreover, if no single aspect of an
 employer's conduct violates that duty, the totality of the conduct may
 be indicative of bad faith bargaining.  The record demonstrates that
 Respondent was convinced that bargaining on the QIP was a local matter
 although the Union steadfastly disagreed.  The totality of Respondent's
 conduct must be carefully weighed.
 
    Section 7103(12) of the Statute defines collective bargaining in
 terms of the "mutual obligation" of the parties to consult and bargain
 in good faith.  The legislative history of the State reflects the goal
 of bringing balance and mutual responsibility to the union-management
 relationship in the Federal sector.  Thus, the collective bargaining
 relationship envisioned by the Statute requires that each party have the
 ability to function as an equal partner within the relationship.  The
 Authority has made it clear that each party shall deal with the other
 with directness and dignity appropriate to partners on an equal footing.
  United States Air Force, Air Force Logistics Command Aerospace Guidance
 and Meteorology Center, Newark, Ohio, 4 FLRA No. 70 (October 24, 1980).
 In this matter Respondent, among other things, unilaterally set the
 dates for negotiations, which should have been by mutual agreement,
 imposed deadlines on the submission of proposals, during negotiations
 sought to limit the Union's caucus time and refused to return to the
 bargaining table on the matter after negotiations were disbanded.
 
    It is noted that the Union complained about Respondent's unilateral
 setting of the time frame for negotiations and admonished, on more than
 one occasion, that it might need more time for negotiations.  Respondent
 prior to negotiations assured the Union that more time would not be a
 problem.  However, once negotiations began Respondent took an adamant
 stand on the time issue, because in its opinion there was agreement for
 only two days of negotiations.  The record does not support Respondent's
 position in that respect and it is found, contrary to Respondent's
 argument, that there was no agreement that negotiations would last only
 two days, but that it was agreed prior to negotiations that additional
 time would be granted to the Union, if necessary.  Further, Respondent
 sought to supervise the Union's use of time during the negotiations,
 interrupted Union caucuses and, in fact, appeared to be attempting to
 supervise the Union's efforts.  Respondent after pressuring Union
 negotiators to submit counterproposals and demanding that it return to
 the bargaining table, suddenly announced that one of the reasons it
 could not continue negotiations on the following day was because its
 negotiators had to attend a going-away party.  Respondent's
 unwillingness to yield on the time issue while insisting that
 negotiations take place at times and places unilaterally established by
 its team and its attempts to supervise Union negotiators time during
 negotiations is a significant factor in determining whether its conduct
 resulted in a good faith effort to bargain over the QIP issue.
 Moreover, Respondent's insistence that QIP negotiations be conducted at
 the local level despite the Union's claim that there were matters to be
 discussed at the national level regarding impact and implementation
 shows a clear predilection on the matter, also indicating a lack of good
 faith effort to bargain at the national level concerning the QIP.
 
    The record shows that throughout negotiations, Respondent attempted
 to limit the Union's caucus time and to apply pressure to the Union's
 negotiation team, pointing out that negotiations had been set for two
 days;  referring to caucus time as a waste of time;  telling the Union
 to return to the bargaining table;  stating that valuable time was being
 wasted;  reminding the Union that expenses for the Union negotiation
 team were being paid by management and that their absence from the
 bargaining table represented a breach in good faith bargaining;  and,
 disbanding negotiations and refusing to return to the bargaining table.
 
    In all the circumstances of this case, I agree with the General
 Counsel that caucus time was part of the negotiation process and that it
 was improper for Respondent to interfere with that time or to attempt to
 supervise Union negotiators.  Respondent showed no reason why Union
 negotiators could not have been allowed sufficient time to formulate
 acceptable counter-proposals, that the Union negotiators misused their
 time or that the time for negotiation could not have been extended
 pursuant to the parties prior agreement.  In fact, it appears that the
 management negotiators were more concerned with adherence to the
 unilaterally established time frames than with engaging in meaningful
 bargaining over the QIP.  In this regard, management information on the
 QIP was given to the Union on the evening of November 18 and Union
 negotiators worked into the late hours of that evening formulating
 counterproposals, but did not complete the task.  When the Union
 returned the following morning to work on counterproposals it had very
 little opportunity to do so because of constant management interference
 because of the time frame.  It is difficult to see how any meaningful
 counterproposals could have been formulated when the Union negotiators
 were being required to answer for all time spent in caucus.  Such
 conduct on Respondent's part clearly evinces a misconception as to its
 role in the collective bargaining relationship.
 
    Based on the totality of Respondent's conduct, it appears that it had
 no intention of arriving at any agreement concerning the QIP at these
 negotiations or that it intended to reach any agreement concerning the
 QIP during the November negotiations at the national level, but that
 these meetings constituted surface bargaining over the matter.
 Accordingly, it is found that Respondent's entire course of conduct was
 not tied to the realities of the bargaining situation herein, and is
 violative of Section 7116(a)(5) and (1) of the Statute.
 
    Having argued that it had fulfilled the obligation to bargain at the
 national level, Respondent contends that it found itself dealing with
 "unprepared union negotiators" who showed a lack of organization and
 preparation during negotiations and who sought to delay actual
 negotiations.  This argument is unpersuasive.  The record established
 that the Union, once it received Respondent's information regarding the
 QIP, worked diligently within the unilaterally established time frame to
 formulate counterproposals acceptable to both sides.  The Statute
 requires parties to "meet at reasonable times . . . and to avoid
 unnecessary delay." Record evidence shows that the Union sought to
 conform with this requirement.  There is no showing that it engaged in
 dilatory or evasive tactics but, only that it needed time during
 negotiations to respond to information submitted by Respondent.
 Respondent's submitting information on the QIP one afternoon and
 expecting a quick response that next day concerning fairly complex
 proposals from Union representatives, who had been brought from all over
 the country, to deal with management representatives stationed in the
 national office points out the absurdity of Respondent unilaterally
 placing severe time restrictions for negotiations on the Union.
 
    It is also found that Respondent's contention that the QIP was
 implemented in only three of its ten regions is immaterial to the
 proceedings.  The question in this matter was not whether the QIP was in
 place when negotiations occurred in November 1980, but whether
 Respondent met its bargaining obligation concerning impact and
 implementation at the national level.  Furthermore, there is no denial
 by Respondent that the QIP was implemented prior to any national
 negotiations on the matter.
 
    The General Counsel asserts that Respondent failed to properly
 respond to the Union's request for information submitted on September 8,
 1980.  The General Counsel's theory in this regard is that a refusal to
 supply such information reflected on Respondent's entire course of
 conduct in this matter.  I do not agree.  Respondent advised the Union
 that it would not provide the information, as it felt it was irrelevant
 to impact and implementation bargaining on the QIP.  In order to obtain
 such information a union must show that it is necessary and relevant for
 it to perform its bargaining duties.  No such showing is made on this
 record.  Neither is it clear that lack of the requested information
 contributed to the Union's alleged unpreparedness during the November 18
 and 19 bargaining sessions, therefore, any finding that such was
 necessary or relevant would be purely speculative.  Accordingly, it is
 recommended that the Section 7116(a)(1) violation based on refusal to
 supply the information requested by the Union on September 18, 1980 be
 dismissed.
 
    Having found that Respondent instituted the Quality Improvement
 Project without bargaining with the Council concerning the impact and
 implementation of such program, I conclude that Respondent violated
 Section 7116(a)(5) and (1) of the Statute.  Having further found that
 Respondent did not violate Section 7116(a)(1) of the Statute by failing
 to furnish certain information to the Council concerning the Quality
 Improvement Project, I recommend that the Authority adopt the following
 Order.
 
                                   ORDER
 
    Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 7118 and Section 2423.26 of the Final Rules and
 Regulations of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, U.S. Fed. Reg.
 3482, 3510 (1980), it is hereby ordered that the Office of Assessments,
 Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland, shall:
 
    1.  Cease and desist from:
 
          (a) Unilaterally implementing the Quality Improvement Program
       without bargaining in good faith with exclusive representative,
       the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, or any
       other exclusive representative, and affording it an opportunity to
       bargain on the implementation and impact of the program.
 
          (b) In any like or related manner, interfering with,
       restraining, or coercing any employee in the exercise of the
       rights guaranteed by the Federal Service Labor-Management
       Relations Statute.
 
    2.  Take the following affirmative action designed and found
 necessary to effectuate the policies of the Statute:
 
          (a) Revoke the Quality Improvement Program.
 
          (b) Upon request bargain with the American Federation of
       Government Employees, AFL-CIO, or any other exclusive
       representative concerning the impact and implementation of the
       Quality Improvement Program on employees adversely affected.
 
          (c) Post at its Offices of Assessments, Regional Offices,
       copies of the attached notice marked "Appendix." Copies of said
       notice, to be furnished by the Regional Director for Region 3,
       after being signed by an authorized representative, shall be
       posted by it immediately upon receipt thereof, and be maintained
       by it for 60 consecutive days thereafter, in conspicuous places,
       including all places where notices to employees are customarily
       posted.  Reasonable steps shall be taken to insure said notices
       are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material.
 
          (d) Notify the Regional Director for Region 3, in writing,
       within 30 days from the date of this order, what steps it has
       taken to comply herewith.
 
                                       ELI NASH, JR.
                                       Administrative Law Judge
 
    Dated:  February 25, 1982
    Washington, D.C.
 
 
 
                                 APPENDIX
 
                          NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES
 
  PURSUANT TO A DECISION AND ORDER OF THE FEDERAL LABOR
 RELATIONS
 AUTHORITY AND IN ORDER TO EFFECTUATE THE POLICIES OF CHAPTER 71
 OF TITLE
 5 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE FEDERAL SERVICE LABOR-MANAGEMENT
 RELATIONS
 STATUTE WE HEREBY NOTIFY OUR EMPLOYEES THAT:
 
    WE WILL NOT unilaterally implement a Quality Improvement Project
 without bargaining in good faith with the exclusive representative, the
 American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, or any other
 exclusive representative, and affording it an opportunity to bargain on
 the implementation and impact of the program.
 
    WE WILL NOT, in any like or related manner, interfere with, restrain,
 or coerce any employee in the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the
 Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
 
    WE WILL revoke the Quality Improvement Program.
 
    WE WILL upon request bargain with the American Federation of
 Government Employees, concerning the impact and implementation of the
 Quality Improvement Program on adversely affected employees.
                                       (Agency or Activity)
 
    Dated:  By:  (Signature)
 
    This Notice must remain posted for 60 consecutive days from the date
 of posting, and must not be altered, defaced, or covered by any other
 material.
 
    If employees have any question concerning this Notice or compliance
 with its provisions, they may communicate directly with the Regional
 Director, Region 3 for the Federal Labor Relations Authority whose
 address is:  1111 18th Street, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20036 and
 whose telephone number is:  (202) 653-8452.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 --------------- FOOTNOTES$ ---------------
 
 
    /1/ The General Counsel moved to strike portions of the Respondent's
 brief in support of its exceptions on the grounds that the brief failed
 to identify the specific page reference to the transcript as required by
 section 2423.28(a)(3) of the Authority's Rules and Regulations.  The
 motion is denied because the General Counsel has not demonstrated any
 prejudice as a result of this technical defect.
 
 
    /2/ In adopting the Judge's dismissal of the alleged section
 7116(a)(1) violation regarding a refusal to supply information, the
 Authority notes particularly that no exceptions were filed concerning
 such finding.
 
 
    /3/ The Office of Assessment has as one of its primary
 responsibilities the d