23:0547(75)NG - NAGE Local R14-77 and VA Medical Center, Grand Junction, CO -- 1986 FLRAdec NG



[ v23 p547 ]
23:0547(75)NG
The decision of the Authority follows:


 23 FLRA No. 75
 
 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT 
 EMPLOYEES, LOCAL R14-77
 Union
 
 and
 
 VETERANS ADMINISTRATION 
 MEDICAL CENTER, GRAND JUNCTION, CO
 Agency
 
                                            Case No. 0-NG-1204
 
                 DECISION AND ORDER ON NEGOTIABILITY ISSUE
 
                         I.  Statement of the Case
 
    This case is before the Authority because of a negotiability appeal
 filed under section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Federal Labor-Management
 Relations Statute (the Statute) and concerns the negotiability of the
 following Union proposal:
 
          Article X, Section 9 (b)
 
          The Union President will be granted two (2) specifically
       scheduled hours in the Union office per week and the Chief Steward
       will be granted three (3) specifically scheduled hours in the
       Union office per week.  It is agreed that only representational
       duties will be performed during these scheduled times.  The
       scheduled times will be worked out between the parties after the
       completion of this Supplemental Agreement.
 
    We hold that the proposal is within the statutory duty to bargain.
 
                       II.  Positions of the Parties
 
    The Agency contends the proposal is nonnegotiable because it violates
 sections 7106(a)(2)(B) and 7131(d) of the Statute;  the governing master
 agreement;  and, finally, because it pertains to an employee who is not
 covered by the master agreement.
 
    The Union argues that the proposal is negotiable since it is
 consistent with the terms of the governing master agreement and because
 it pertains only to bargaining unit employees.  The Union also argues
 that the proposal would not prevent the Agency from assigning work under
 section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute.
 
                              III.  Analysis
 
          A.  Management's right to "assign work" is not a bar to
 
                negotiability.
 
    The proposal provides for specifically scheduled hours in the Union
 office on a weekly basis for the Union President and the Chief Steward.
 The parties are to "work out" these scheduled times in the future.
 
    The Agency has the burden of demonstrating that granting official
 time will interfere with the accomplishment of its assigned work.
 Overseas Federation of Teachers and Department of Defense Dependent
 Schools, Mediterranean Region, APO New York, 21 FLRA No. 81 (1986);
 Department of the Air Force, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, 20 FLRA No.
 89 (1985), petition for review filed sub nom. National Association of
 Government Employees, Local R7-23 v. FLRA, No. 86-1011 (D.C. Cir.
 January 7, 1986).  In this case the Agency contends that the proposal
 removes its discretion to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) since
 the proposal requires "specifically scheduled hours" to perform
 representational duties.  The Agency relies on National Treasury
 Employees Union and NTEU Chapter 80 and Department of the Treasury,
 Internal Revenue Service, Central Region, 8 FLRA 197 (1982);  American
 Federation of Government Employees, Local 2094, AFL-CIO and Veterans
 Administration Medical Center, New York, New York, 19 FLRA No. 120
 (1985).  In each of these cases the Authority found proposals
 nonnegotiable that specifically allocated to bargaining unit employees
 fifteen minute periods at the beginning and end of each workday to
 perform particular functions -- packing/unpacking files, reaching duty
 stations, performing personal hygiene and changing clothes -- not
 associated with the work normally performed by those employees.  The
 Authority held that each of those proposals removed management's
 discretion to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute.
 
    Even apart from the consideration that this proposal is concerned
 with representational activities, which are statutorily sanctioned as
 discussed in B, below, the proposal here is substantially different from
 those in Internal Revenue Service and Veterans Administration Medical
 Center, and warrants an opposite conclusion.  While the proposal calls
 for the Union's President and Chief Steward to be granted specifically
 scheduled hours in the Union office, it also provides that the parties
 will work out scheduled times in the future.  Thus, the proposal does
 not itself schedule which hours the Union President and Chief Steward
 will spend in the Union office.  Rather, the proposal allows the parties
 to make adjustments as necessary.  The Agency's claim is merely
 speculative;  it has failed to show that the use of official time under
 the proposal will interfere with the assignment or accomplishment of its
 work.
 
        B.  The proposal is consistent with section 7131(d) of the
 
                Statute.
 
    Section 7131(d) authorizes the negotiation of official time for
 labor-management related representational matters such as contract
 administration, participation in grievance arbitration and the like.
 Veterans Administration Medical Center, 19 FLRA No. 120, slip op. at 3.
 The disputed proposal specifically provides that "only representational
 duties" will be performed during the times scheduled in the Union
 office.  As such, the proposal is clearly consistent with the
 requirements of section 7131(d) of the Statute.
 
    Despite the express language of the proposal, the Agency argues that
 the Union President and Chief Steward will use negotiated official time
 to conduct internal union business prohibited by section 7131(b) of the
 Statute.  See American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO,
 Local 2823 and Veterans Administration Regional Office, Cleveland, Ohio,
 2 FLRA 4 (1979).  An agency cannot remove an otherwise negotiable
 proposal from the bargaining table simply because the agency expects
 that, if agreed upon, the proposal would provide the opportunity for
 some abuse.  Such speculation provides no basis for finding a proposal
 nonnegotiable.  We decide here only the negotiability issues presented
 under section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Statute concerning whether the
 proposal is consistent with applicable law and regulation and,
 therefore, within the duty to bargain.
 
        C.  The parties' master agreements do not require a finding
 
                of nonnegotiability.
 
                              1.  Background
 
    This appeal arose from negotiations for a supplemental agreement to a
 master agreement covering nonprofessional and GS professional employees
 (Agreement 1).  NAGE and the Veterans Administration are also parties to
 a master agreement covering registered nurses (Agreement 2).  The Agency
 argues that this appeal is inappropriate because it violates Article 6,
 Section 14 of Agreement 1.  Further, the Agency contends that the
 proposal is nonnegotiable because it applies to an employee not covered
 by Agreement 1.
 
                  2.  Claimed violation of Agreement 1.
 
    The Agency's claim that the proposal is not appropriate for inclusion
 in a local supplemental agreement under the Agency's interpretation of
 the provisions of Master Agreement 1 does not raise negotiability issues
 under section 7117 of the Statute.  Rather, it raises a question for
 resolution through whatever procedures Agreement 1 establishes for
 contract interpretation disputes.  National Treasury Employees Union,
 Chapter 153 and Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Region
 II, 21 FLRA No. 102, slip op. at 6 (1986).
 
        3.  Claim that proposal applies to an employee not covered
 
                by Agreement 1.
 
    The Agency argues the proposal is nonnegotiable since it arose from
 negotiations supplemental to Agreement 1, but the Union President to
 whom it applies is a registered nurse subject to the terms of Agreement
 2.  This argument is without merit.  Under section 7131(d) of the
 Statute a Union representative is entitled to official time to represent
 fellow bargaining unit employees in an amount the parties agree to be
 reasonable, necessary and in the public interest.  See, for example,
 American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1698 and Department
 of the Navy, Aviation Supply Office Consolidated Civilian Personnel
 Division, 17 FLRA 557, 559 (1985).  Although not himself covered by
 Agreement 1, the Union President is a member of a bargaining unit to
 which Agreement 1 and the disputed proposal would apply.  Thus, the
 proposal is negotiable insofar as it grants the Union President and
 Chief Steward official time to perform representational duties on behalf
 of other members of the bargaining unit of which they are members.
 Compare American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 2225
 and U.S. Department of Defense, Naval Air Rework Facility, Norfolk,
 Virginia, 19 FLRA No. 22 (1985).
 
                             IV.  Conclusions
 
    For the reasons stated above, the Authority concludes that the
 proposal is consistent with management's right to assign work and the
 requirements of section 7131(d) of the Statute.  The claim that the
 proposal is barred by Agreement 1 does not state a ground pertaining to
 the negotiability of the proposal under the Statute.  Finally, the
 proposal only concerns conditions of employment of bargaining unit
 employees.
 
                                 V.  Order
 
    Pursuant to section 2424.10 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations,
 IT IS ORDERED that the Agency shall, upon request, or as otherwise
 agreed to by