25:1106(93)AR - VA Regional Office, Denver, CO and AFGE Local Union 1557 -- 1987 FLRAdec AR
[ v25 p1106 ]
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 mere disagreement with the Arbitrator's interpretation of the agreement and does not provide any basis for finding the award deficient. Id., slip. op. at 2. V. Decision For the reasons stated above, the Agency's exceptions are denied. However, the award directing payment of travel and per diem expenses to the grievant is modified to provide that the grievant is entitled to payment of travel and per diem expenses related to his attendance at the arbitration proceedings insofar as consistent with applicable requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations. Issued, Washington, D.C., February 27, 1987. /s/ Jerry L. Calhoun, Chairman /s/ Henry B. Frazier III, Member /s/ Jean McKee, Member FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY --------------- FOOTNOTES$ --------------- (*) The FTRs, 41 C.F.R. Part 101-7, are Government-wide rules and regulations within the meaning of the Statute. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 29 and U.S. Army Engineer District, Kansas City, Missouri, 13 FLRA 23, 24 (1983).