29:0467(46)NG - IPPDSE VS TREASURY, BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTI
[ v29 p467 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
29 FLRA NO. 46 BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY Agency and WASHINGTON PLATE PRINTERS UNION LOCAL NO. 2, INTERNATIONAL PLATE PRINTERS, DIE STAMPERS AND ENGRAVERS Union Case No. 0-AR-1322
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the award of Arbitrator Ira F. Jaffee filed by the Agency under section 7122 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 grievance in this case concerned four changes in the operation and staffing of Press 601, a gravure press used by the Agency to print postage stamps. These changes were: (1) scheduling continuous production on Press 601, including during lunch periods; (2) severing the two 15-minute paid rest periods from the 30-minute paid lunch period; (3) scheduling the press operators for break and lunch periods on an individual basis, thus allowing only one operator at a time to be on a break or at lunch; and (4) operating Press 601 with fewer than the usual three printers during break and lunch periods. These changes resulted in Press 601 being staffed by fewer than three printers for up to 3 hours per shift. The grievance alleged that these changes violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement, specifically, Article VI, Past Practices and Article XXIII, Health and Safety.
The Arbitrator determined in regard to the first three changes that the record did not support a finding that the previous policies constituted past practices and, therefore, the Agency did not violate Article VI of the parties' agreement by implementing the changes. Arbitrator's Award at 40-44. The Arbitrator determined as to the fourth change that a long established and mutually accepted past practice to staff Press 601 with a three-printer crew had developed at the Agency. He concluded that the Agency's decision to operate Press 601 during break and lunch periods with fewer than three printers violated Article VI of the parties' agreement. Arbitrator's Award at 44.
The Arbitrator rejected the Agency's contention that, notwithstanding any binding past practice or understanding concerning staffing levels on Press 601, section 7106 of the Statute allowed it to unilaterally abrogate its agreement to maintain those levels. He noted that section 7106(b) of the Statute provides that nothing bars agencies, at their election, from bargaining on the numbers, types, and grades of employees assigned to a work project or on the technology, methods, and means of performing work. He reasoned that Article VI of the parties' agreement represented the Agency's election to bargain over and its agreement to continue, among other things, the pre-existing levels of staffing on Press 601. Arbitrator's Award at 44-45. The Arbitrator specifically stated that "enforcement of this practice does not compel the Bureau to add other plate printers or to operate Press 601 or any other press at a particular time; rather, the enforcement of the past practice simply requires that when the Bureau elects to operate a press, that it do so in accordance with the mutually agreed upon and understood manning schedule for that press in accordance with Article VI." Arbitrator's Award at 45.
Lastly, the Arbitrator found that it was clear that there was no violation of Article XXIII, the health and safety provision, of the parties' agreement. Accordingly, the Arbitrator denied the grievance in part and sustained it in par