21:0384(49)AR - NTEU and NTEU Chapter 224 and Office of Hearings and Appeals, SSA -- 1986 FLRAdec AR



[ v21 p384 ]
21:0384(49)AR
The decision of the Authority follows:


 21 FLRA No. 49
 
 NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES 
 UNION AND NTEU CHAPTER 224
 Union
 
 and
 
 OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS, 
 SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
 Activity
 
                                            Case No. 0-AR-875
 
                                 DECISION
 
                  I.  STATEMENT OF THE CASE
 
    This matter is before the Authority on an exception to the award of
 Arbitrator Bernard Cushman filed by the Activity 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 Union filed a grievance in this case alleging that the Activity
 violated Article 22, Section 4 of the parties' collective bargaining
 agreement by refusing to pay the travel and per diem expenses of the
 chapter president and chief steward for attendance at a one-day
 negotiation session in Arlington, Virginia, held at the request of the
 Activity.  The Arbitrator noted that Article 22 of the parties'
 agreement pertinently provides that "(t)he Employer shall pay travel and
 per diem costs incurred by the employee negotiators unless a statute or
 court order mandates otherwise." The Arbitrator further noted that the
 president had claimed expenses of $663.60 and the steward had claimed
 expenses of $75.02 and that the Activity had denied the claims.  In
 denying the claims the Activity took the position that after the U.S.
 Supreme Court's decision in Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms v.
 FLRA, 464 U.S. 89 (1983), payment of travel and per diem expenses was
 not required under the parties' agreement provision and that under the
 Travel Expense Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 5701 et seq., payment was precluded
 because there had been no specific agency head certification that the
 travel served the convenience of the agency or was otherwise in the
 primary interest of the Government.  The Arbitrator, however, rejected
 the Activity's position.  He found that the requirement of the parties'
 agreement to pay travel and per diem expenses was unaffected by the
 decision in BATF.  He further found that payment of the expenses was not
 precluded by the lack of a specific agency head certification that the
 disputed travel served the convenience of the agency.  In this regard he
 essentially concluded that consistent with the decision in BATF, the
 parties' agreement constituted the determination by the Activity that
 travel attendant to representing an exclusive representative in
 negotiations is sufficiently within the interest of the United States so
 as to constitute official business.  Accordingly, as his award, the
 Arbitrator sustained the grievance and, in doing so, in effect found
 that management was obligated to pay the grievants' travel and per diem
 expenses for attendance at the negotiation session in question.
 
                              III.  EXCEPTION
 
    As its exception the Activity contends that the award is contrary to
 law, specifically, the Travel Expense Act.  In support of this
 exception, the Activity essentially repeats its position before the
 Arbitrator by arguing that payment of the travel and per diem expenses
 is precluded by the Travel Expense Act because there had not been a
 specific agency head certification that the travel was performed in the
 primary interest of the Government.
 
                       IV.  ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS
 
    The Authority finds that the Agency's exception fails to establish
 that the Arbitrator's award is contrary to the Travel Expense Act.  The
 agreement provision enforced by the Arbitrator is essentially the same
 as the proposal found by the Authority to be within the duty to bargain
 in National Treasury Employees Union and Department of the Treasury,
 U.S. Customs Service, 21 FLRA No. 2 (1986).  In that decision the
 Authority pertinently ruled that provisions of the Travel Expense Act do
 not prohibit an agency from exercising through negotiations the
 discretion which it possesses to determine whether travel attendant to
 labor-management relations activities is sufficiently within the
 interest of the United States so as to constitute official business for
 purposes of reimbursement of appropriate travel expenses.  Id. at 6.  As
 has been noted, the Arbitrator in this case similarly found that the
 parties' agreement provision as to the payment of travel and per diem
 expenses constituted the determination by the Activity that travel
 attendant to representing an exclusive representative in negotiations is
 sufficiently within the interest of the United States so as to
 constitute official business.  Thus, in view of the Authority's decision
 in U.S. Customs Service, no basis is provided for finding the award
 deficient as alleged by the Activity.
 
    In finding the proposal in U.S. Customs Service to be within the duty
 to bargain, however, 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 on the union's acknowledgment that
 payment of any travel expenses flowing from the proposal, if agreed upon
 by the parties, would be subject to the provisions of the Federal Travel
 Regulations (FTRs).  /*/ In this case, the Ar