31:1203(107)NG - NFFE Local 1256 and Air Force, K.I. Sawyer AFB, MI -- 1988 FLRAdec NG

[ v31 p1203 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

31 FLRA NO. 107

EMPLOYEES, Local 1256





                                        Case No. 0-NG-1469


     I. Statement of the Case

     This case is before the Authority because of a negotiability
petition filed by the Union under section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the
Federal Service Labor - Management Relations Statute (the
Statute). The case concerns the negotiability of a union proposal
relating to employees' eligibility to be considered for quality
step increases (QSIs) --awards of pay step increases--which
agencies may grant employees under 5 U.S.C. 5336 in recognition
of "high quality performance."

     As explained below, we find that the petition was not filed
untimely as contended by the Agency. We also find that the
proposal concerns a condition of employment, is consistent with
management's rights, and is negotiable.

     II. Background

     Prior to June 1987, Department of the Air Force regulations
permitted managers to grant QSIs to employees at all steps within
the grades of the General Schedule, at 52-week intervals. In June
1987, the Department modified its regulations (AFR 40-452, para.
7-5) to restrict eligibility for QSIs to employees at
steps 4 and above and to increase the required intervals for QSIs
to 3 years.

     The local parties jointly requested a partial exception to
the new restriction from the Department of the Air Force. They
asked to be allowed to consider QSIs for employees at step 3 and
above. The request for an exception was denied by letter dated
August 17, 1987. The parties subsequently renewed their
negotiations. The Union then proposed that there be no  change in
the prior policy for quality step increases and, on September 24,
1987, requested an allegation as to the negotiability of its
proposal. The Agency alleged that this Union proposal is
nonnegotiable on September 30, 1987.

     III. The Timeliness Issue

     The Agency contends that the denial of the local parties'
request for an exception from the Air Force Regulation in August
1987, constituted an Agency allegation that a substantively
identical provision was nonnegotiable. Therefore, it claims that
the petition for review filed on October 15, 1987, was

     This contention cannot be sustained. The record shows that
when the local parties requested the Agency to grant an exception
to the modified Departmental regulation, the Union did not
request an allegation of nonnegotiability. Union Response at 1;
Agency Statement of Position, Attachment 3. The Agency's response
in August 1987, was captioned "Request for Exception" and stated
that the "request for a waiver is denied." Agency Statement of
Position, Attachment 5. The response also directed local
management to "restrict its discussions to the impact of the Air
Force policy" and stated that the issue was "not subject to

     Since the record does not show that the Union had requested
an agency allegation within the meaning of section 2424.3 of the
Authority's Regulations, the Union was not obligated to file a
petition within 15 days of the Agency's August response in order
to preserve its right to appeal. The petition is timely in
relation to the requested allegation of nonnegotiability, which
was served on the Union on October 1, 1987.

     IV. The Proposal

     The Union proposes that unit employees at steps 1 and above
may be considered for QSIs and that the minimum interval for QSI
consideration should be 52 weeks.  

     A. Positions of the Parties

     The Agency contends that under 5 U.S.C. 5536, a QSI is
defined as a part of basic pay, which is a matter specifically
provided by Federal statute. Therefore, it claims that the
proposal concerns a matter which is excluded from the definition
of conditions of employment under section 7103(a)(14)(C) of the
Statute. The Agency also contends that the proposal is