20:0125(14)CA - SSA and AFGE, Local 1923 -- 1985 FLRAdec CA

[ v20 p125 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

20 FLRA No. 14



Charging Party

                                      Case No. 3-CA-40552

                           DECISION AND ORDER

   This matter is before the Authority pursuant to the Regional
Director's "Order Transferring Case to the Federal Labor Relations
Authority" in accordance with section 2429.1(a) of the Authority's Rules
and Regulations.

   Upon consideration of the entire record, including the stipulation of
facts, accompanying exhibits, and the contentions of the parties, the
Authority finds:

   The complaint alleges that the Social Security Administration (the
Respondent) violated section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Federal Service
Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) /1/ by bypassing the
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1923, AFL-CIO (AFGE),
the employees' exclusive representative, when, during March 1984, it
distributed to bargaining unit employees an "Integrity and Security
Awareness Feedback Questionnaire" (herein the questionnaire) as part of
an internal agency bulletin entitled "Integrity and Security Awareness
Bulletin." The complaint further alleged that such conduct constituted a
failure and refusal to negotiate the manner in which information would
be obtained from bargaining unit employees and the impact and
implementation of the Respondent's decision to gather the information.

   The parties stipulated that, during March 1984, the Respondent
distributed the questionnaire to all personnel assigned to the
Respondent's Office of Disability Operations (ODO) without prior notice
to AFGE.  The record shows that, in an August 1983 Integrity and
Security Awareness Bulletin, which contained exactly the same
questionnaire as is in question here, it was explained that the
Respondent's Integrity Staff, which is responsible for distributing both
questionnaires, "was established in October 1981 to detect fraud and
abuse in the disability program by beneficiaries and employees and to
provide the necessary security for the protection of personnel and the
system of records.  To accomplish this objective, the Integrity Staff
monitors the disability operation by conducting payment audits,
administrative audits, systems audits, program and facilities audits."
The expressed purpose of the internal agency bulletins was "to expand
the scope and dimension of these audit programs by alerting all ODO
personnel to security matters and the potential avenues of fraud and
abuse." The questionnaire itself stated that it was "being provided so
that ODO employees and managers may assist the Integrity Staff in
ensuring that integrity in the Social Security program is maintained,"
and requested employees to "identify procedures, systems and practices
that are vulnerable to fraud and abuse and list below." The
questionnaire, which did not request or require employees to identify
themselves, contained three questions, as follows:

         1.  Are there any areas of your operation which you think may
      be susceptible to fraudulent practices by either beneficiaries
      and/or employees?

         2.  Are there any abusive practices and/or procedures regarding
      overtime, time and leave or other related areas now taking place
      in your location?

         3.  Other comments:

   The parties further stipulated that any response to the questionnaire
was unknown.

   In Internal Revenue Service (District, Region, National Office
Units), 19 FLRA No. 48(1985), the Authority, in considering whether the
agency's conduct therein in distributing questionnaires to unit
employees constituted an unlawful bypass of the exclusive
representative, stated:

         (A)s part of its overall management responsibility to conduct
      operations in an effective and efficient manner, an agency may
      question employees directly provided that it does not do so in a
      way which amounts to attempting to negotiate directly with its
      employees concerning matters which are properly bargainable with
      its employees' exclusive representative.  In this regard, a