21:0120(23)AR - HHS, SSA and Local 3369, AFGE -- 1986 FLRAdec AR



[ v21 p120 ]
21:0120(23)AR
The decision of the Authority follows:


 21 FLRA No. 23
 
 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN 
 SERVICES, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
 Agency
 
 and
 
 LOCAL 3369, AMERICAN FEDERATION 
 OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
 Union
 
                                            Case No. 0-AR-454
 
                                DECISION
 
    I.  STATEMENT OF THE CASE
 
    This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the award of
 Arbitrator Jesse Simons filed by the Agency under section 7122(a) of the
 Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and part 2425 of the
 Authority's Rules and Regulations.
 
    II.  BACKGROUND AND ARBITRATOR'S AWARD
 
    The parties submitted to arbitration the issue of whether management
 was justified under the parties' collective bargaining agreement or
 under applicable law or regulation in refusing to pay travel and per
 diem expenses of the local union president in the amount of $118.00 for
 a one-day trip to Washington, D.C., to visit officials of the National
 Union and Congress.  The Arbitrator sustained the grievance finding that
 the Activity's refusal to pay travel and per diem was wholly untenable
 under the provisions of the parties' agreement and was not supportable
 under any cited law or regulation.  Accordingly, as his award, the
 Arbitrator ruled that the refusal of management to pay the disputed
 expenses was violative of the parties' agreement and that the refusal
 was not mandated by any law or regulation, and he therefore directed
 management to pay the local union president the sum of $116.00.
 
    III.  FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD EXCEPTIONS
 
    A. Contentions
 
    In its initial exceptions, the Agency contends that the award is
 based on a nonfact and fails to draw its essence from the collective
 bargaining agreement and that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority.
 The Agency's arguments in support of these exceptions are essentially
 the same.  The Agency essentially argues that the award is deficient in
 these respects because the Arbitrator erroneously interpreted the
 parties' collective bargaining agreement as providing a basis on which
 to award the payment of travel and per diem.  The Agency's position is
 that the Arbitrator could not properly have interpreted the provisions
 of the parties' agreement to find that the Agency violated the agreement
 in refusing to pay the disputed travel and per diem expenses.
 
    B. Analysis and Conclusions
 
    The Authority concludes that these exceptions constitute nothing more
 than disagreement with the Arbitrator's interpretation and application
 of the parties' collective bargaining agreement.  The Arbitrator clearly
 interpreted the parties' agreement to encompass travel and per diem
 payments.  Thus, the Agency in these exceptions is clearly seeking to
 have its own interpretation of the parties' collective bargaining
 agreement substituted for that of the Arbitrator and the Authority has
 uniformly held that such exceptions provide no basis for finding an
 arbitration award deficient.  E.g., National Federation of Federal
 Employees, Local 1418 and U.S. International Communication Agency, Voice
 of America, 9 FLRA 980 (1982).  Accordingly, these exceptions are
 denied.
 
    IV.  FINAL EXCEPTION
 
    A. Contentions
 
    In its final exception the Agency contends that the award is contrary
 to the Statute.  Specifically, the Agency maintains that the award is
 contrary to management's right to determine the mission and budget of
 the agency under section 7106(a) and is contrary to the official time
 provisions of section 7131.  However, the sole argument of the Agency in
 support of this exception is again that the Arbitrator has erroneously
 interpreted the parties' collective bargaining agreement as providing a
 basis on which to award the payment of travel and per diem.
 
    B. Analysis and Conclusions
 
    The Authority concludes that this exception fails to establish that
 the award is deficient as alleged by the Agency.  In National Treasury
 Employees Union and Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, 21
 FLRA No. 2 (1986), the Authority found the following proposal to be
 within the duty to bargain:
 
       The employer agrees to pay the travel expenses incurred by
       employees while using official time available under the terms of
       this agreement.
 
    In finding the proposal to be within the duty to bargain, the
 Authority stated that the Statute is silent on whether travel expenses
 incurred in the conduct of labor-management relations activity are
 payable from federal funds and that the proposal did not conflict with
 the right of the agency to determine its budget under section 7108
 because there was no substantial demonstration that the proposal would
 result in a significant and unavoidable increase in costs.  Id. at 3,
 7-8.  In this case, the Authority similarly concludes that the
 Arbitrator's interpretation of the parties' agreement to find
 management's refusal to pay the disputed travel and per diem expenses to
 be unjustified has not been shown to be contrary to the right of the
 Agency to determine its mission or budget under section 7106 or to be
 contrary to the official time provisions of section 7131.  Moreover,
 other than its bare assertion, the Agency has made no showing that the
 award interferes in any way with the Agency's right to determine its
 mission.  Rather, in arguing that the Arbitrator erroneously interpreted
 the parties' agreement, the Agency is again clearly disagreeing with the
 Arbitrator's interpretation and application of that agreement which
 provides no basis for finding the award deficient.
 
    Additionally, in finding the proposal in U.S. Customs Service to be
 within the duty to bargain, the Authority concluded that the proposal
 would not require the agency to authorize the payment of expenses which
 do not comport with regulatory requirements and restrictions.  Id. at 6.
 The Authority based its conclusion upon the union's acknowledgment that
 payment of any travel expenses flowing from the proposal, if agreed
 upon, would be subject to the provisions of the Federal Travel
 Regulations (FTRs).  /1/ In this case, the Arbitrator in directing the
 payment of travel and Per diem expenses in the amount of $116.00 has not
 expressly provided for agency determinations regarding the propriety
 under the FTRs of travel and per diem expenses in that amount.
 Consequently, the Authority must modify the award to assure that it is
 consistent with the requirements of the FTRs.
 
    DECISION
 
    Accordingly, pursuant to section 2425.4 of the Authority's Rules and
 Regulations and for the reasons stated above, that portion of the award
 directing the payment of $116.00 is modified to provide as follows:
 
       The local union president is entitled to payment of hi