25:1106(93)AR - VA Regional Office, Denver, CO and AFGE Local Union 1557 -- 1987 FLRAdec AR



[ v25 p1106 ]
25:1106(93)AR
The decision of the Authority follows:


 25 FLRA No. 93
 
 VETERANS ADMINISTRATION 
 REGIONAL OFFICE, 
 DENVER, COLORADO
 Agency
 
 and
 
 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF 
 GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES 
 AFL-CIO, LOCAL UNION 1557
 Union
 
                                            Case No. 0-AR-1230
 
                                 DECISION
 
                         I.  Statement of the Case
 
    This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the award of
 Arbitrator John Phillip Linn filed by the Agency under section 7122(a)
 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute)
 and part 2425 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations.
 
                  II.  Background and Arbitrator's Award
 
    The grievant is assigned to the Agency's regional office in Denver,
 Colorado, but is "out-stationed" at the Agency's medical center,
 approximately 200 miles from Denver.  The grievance in this case
 resulted from the Agency's refusal to allow the grievant to attend
 meetings at the Denver office in connection with two prior grievances
 and its decision to limit the grievant's participation to telephonic
 communication.  The Union protested the Agency's decision to conduct
 grievance meetings by phone, contending that the grievant had a right to
 "meet" with management under the terms of the parties' Master and Local
 agreements.
 
    A grievance was subsequently filed requesting that the Agency allow
 round-trip travel by government vehicle to the Denver regional office
 and travel and per diem expenses.  The Agency denied the grievance and
 arbitration was invoked.  When the Grievant attended the arbitration
 hearing he was denied official time and travel and per diem expenses.
 The grievant used annual leave and rode a bus to and from the hearing.
 
    The Arbitrator found that Article 5, Section 2 of the parties' Local
 Agreement provided that "(r)easonable and necessary time during working
 hours will be granted to union representatives and aggrieved employees
 to attend meetings with management officials and for representatives to
 meet with other employees to discuss grievances and other matters."
 Reading that Article together with Article 22, Section 4(b), which
 provides "(r)easonable and necessary time during working hours will be
 allowed for employee(s) and Union representatives to discuss, prepare
 for and present the grievance, including attendance at meetings with
 employer official(s), at various stages," the Arbitrator concluded that
 the grievant was entitled under the contract to official time to attend
 his grievance and arbitration hearing.  The Arbitrator held that the
 grievant had a contractual right to meet face-to-face with management at
 the grievance steps and that the grievant was entitled to official time
 for the grievance meetings and the arbitration hearing, which included
 travel time, travel expenses and per diem expenses.  As his award, the
 Arbitrator ordered the agency to credit the grievant for the annual
 leave used to travel to the arbitration hearing and reimburse him for
 travel and per diem expenses.
 
                           III.  First Exception
 
                              A.  Contention
 
    The Agency excepts to the Arbitrator's award of travel and per diem
 expenses on the ground that it is contrary to law.  The Agency contends
 that the award orders payment of travel and per diem expenses without a
 prior determination by the Agency that the payment is in the primary
 interest of the Government.
 
    The Union did not file an opposition to the Agency's exceptions.
 
                        B.  Analysis and Conclusion
 
    The Authority has held that an agency may exercise, through
 negotiations, its discretion 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
 the purposes of reimbursement of related travel expenses.  National
 Treasury Employees Union and Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs
 Service, 21 FLRA No. 2, slip. op. at 2 (1986), petition for review filed
 sub nom. Department of the Treasury v. FLRA, No. 86-1198 (D.C. Cir. Mar.
 27, 1986).
 
    In this case, the Arbitrator determined that the Agency agreed that
 official time shall be granted to allow aggrieved employees to attend
 meetings with management officials for the purpose discussing their
 grievances.  The Arbitrator also determined that the parties intended
 that grievants would be entitled to official time for travel, pursuant
 to section 7131(d) of the Statute, and would be allowed travel expenses
 and per diem allowances.  As interpreted by the Arbitrator, therefore,
 the agreement provisions in the parties' Master and Local agreements
 constituted determinations by the Agency that travel which is necessary
 and reasonable to allow aggrieved employees to attend meetings with
 management officials is sufficiently within the interest of the United
 States to constitute official business.  See National Treasury Employees
 Union and NTEU Chapter 224 and Office of Hearings and Appeals, Social
 Security Administration, 21 FLRA No. 49 (1986).  Thus, the Agency's
 arguments constitute nothing more than disagreement with the
 Arbitrator's interpretation of the parties agreement and do not provide
 a basis for finding the award deficient.  See U.S. Department of Health
 and Human Services, Social Security Administration and American
 Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, 22 FLRA No. 16 (1986).
 
    In directing the payment of travel and per diem expenses in
 connection with the covered activities, the Arbitrator did not provide
 for the Agency to determine the propriety of particular travel and per
 diem expenses under the Federal Travel Regulations (FTRs).  /*/ Since
 any payment of travel and per diem expenses must be consistent with the
 provisions of the FTRs, we will modify the award to assure that it is
 consistent with the requirements of the FTRs.  See National Treasury
 Employees Union and NTEU Chapter 224, 21 FLRA No. 49 (1986).
 
                           IV.  Second Exception
 
                              A.  Contention
 
    In its second exception the Agency contends that the Arbitrator's
 award fails to draw its essence from the parties' collective bargaining
 agreement.
 
                        B.  Analysis and Conclusion
 
    We find that the Agency has failed to demonstrate that the
 Arbitrator's award does not draw its essence from the parties' agreement
 under any of the tests described in General Services Administration,
 Region 8 and American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO,
 Council 236, 21 FLRA No. 54 (1986), slip. op. at 2.  Rather, the
 Agency's second exception likewise constitutes me