32:0628(91)AR - - National Weather Service Employees Organization, MEBA and Commerce, NOAA, National Weather Service - - 1988 FLRAdec AR - - v32 p628
[ v32 p628 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
32 FLRA No. 91
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE EMPLOYEES
ORGANIZATION, MEBA, AFL-CIO
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE,
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Case No. 0-AR-1474
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the award of Arbitrator Arnold Ordman. The Arbitrator ruled that (1) the Union had waived its right to submit its agreement with the Agency for ratification by its membership, and (2) the Union and the Agency should begin negotiations "forthwith" for a grievance procedure to replace the interim procedure they had previously negotiated.
The Union and the Agency filed exceptions to the award under section 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor- Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations. The Agency opposes the Union's exceptions. The Union supports the Agency's exception.
We conclude that the Union fails to establish that the award as it pertains to the ratification issue (1) concerns a duty-to-bargain question which the Arbitrator had no authority to resolve, or (2) is contrary to law. We also conclude that the Agency and the Union fail to establish that the Arbitrator resolved an issue that was not submitted to him. Accordingly, we deny the exceptions.
II. Background and Arbitrator's Award
The Federal Service Impasses Panel (the Panel) issued a decision and order directing the parties to submit the following questions for resolution by an arbitrator of their choice:
(1) Whether the Union waived its right to submit the [collective bargaining] agreement [previously] reached . . . for membership ratification and
(2) When should the parties begin negotiations for a grievance procedure to replace the interim one previously negotiated?
The parties selected Arbitrator Ordman to resolve these issues.
On the ratification issue, the Arbitrator ruled that "[t]he Union waived its right to submit the agreement reached at the negotiating table for membership ratification." Award at 18.
On the second issue, the Arbitrator noted the Union's statement that if a waiver of ratification was found, the agreement became effective on September 2, 1986. The Arbitrator further noted that on the basis of this statement, the Union took the position that the parties must immediately return to the bargaining table to negotiate a grievance procedure to replace the interim procedure previously negotiated. The Arbitrator found merit in the Union's position. Accordingly, the Arbitrator ruled that the parties should "begin negotiations forthwith for a grievance procedure to replace the interim one previously negotiated." Award at 18.
III. Union's First Exception
The Union contends that the Arbitrator had no authority to resolve the dispute over Union ratification because the dispute concerned a duty-to-bargain question. The Union maintains that the issue of whether the Union waived its right to submit the parties' agreement to its membership for ratification was not "an interest dispute." Union Exceptions at 15. Therefore, the Union argues that the Panel improperly asserted jurisdiction over an issue concerning the duty to bargain and that the Arbitrator did not have the authority to resolve the ratification issue.
The Agency argues that the Union incorrectly characterizes the dispute over ratification as relating only to duty-to-bargain issues. The Agency maintains that the issue resolved by the Arbitrator concerned the proper interpretation of the parties' ground rules agreement.
B. Analysis and Conclusions
We conclude that the Union's position is without merit. The ratification issue submitted to the Arbitrator solely concerned the interpretation and application of the ground rules agreement on the question of whether the Union had waived its right to submit the agreement for ratification by its membership. The Arbitrator interpreted the ground rules agreement and ruled that the Union waived its right to submit the agreement for ratification.
In our view, the ratification issue submitted to the Arbitrator did not concern a duty-to-bargain question. Therefore, the Panel did not improperly assert jurisdiction over a duty-to-bargain question and the Arbitrator was authorized to resolve the ratification issue. Accordingly, the Union's exception provides no basis for finding the award deficient. See National Treasury Employees Union and Internal Revenue Service, 30 FLRA 1097 (1988) (union misconstrued the arbitrator's award as improperly deciding a question of the union's duty to bargain).
IV. Union's Second Exception
The Union contends that the Arbitrator erred in ruling that an agreement between the parties was necessary to enable the Union to submit an agreement for membership ratification. The Union argues that the only requirement for ratification is that the Union's intention to submit the agreement for ratification must be announced prior to completion of negotiations. The Union maintains that the Arbitrator expressly found that the Union announced its intention to submit the agreement for ratification. Consequently, the Union contends that the award as it pertains to ratification is contrary to law.
The Agency argues that the Union fails to establish that the award is deficient. The Agency maintains that based on the parties' understanding of their ground rules agreement and their conduct, the Arbitrator properly concluded that the Union had waived its right to ratification. The Agency contends that the Union's exception constitutes nothing more than disagreement with the Arbitrator's reasoning and conclusions and provides no basis for finding the award deficient.
B. Analysis and Conclusions
We conclude that the Union's second exception fails to establish that the Arbitrator's award is deficient. Under the Statute, a union can waive its right to submit a collective bargaining agreement to its membership for ratification; this waiver may be accomplished through a ground rules agreement. See U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 17 FLRA 667, 670-71 (1985). In the instant case, the Arbitrator interpreted and applied the parties' ground rules agreement to conclude that the Union waived its right to submit the previously negotiated collective bargaining agreement to its membership for ratification. The Union's arguments constitute an attempt to have its own interpretation of the ground rules agreement substituted for that of the Arbitrator.
Asserted errors in the construction and application of a collective bargaining agreement do not provide a basis for finding an arbitration award deficient under the Statute. For example, Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration and American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, 32 FLRA 79, 87 (1988). The question of the interpretation of the ground rules agreement is a question solely for the Arbitrator because it is the Arbitrator's construction for which the parties bargained. Id. at 88.
Accordingly, we find that no basis is provided for finding that the award is contrary to law. Therefore, we deny the Union's second exception.
V. Agency's Exception
The Agency maintains that the Arbitrator determined that September 2, 1986, was the effective date of the agreement. The Agency contends that by doing so, the Arbitrator exceeded his authority because the issue of the effective date of the agreement was not submitted to him.
The Union states that the Agency's exception is "well taken." Union Response at 1. The Union asserts that the Arbitrator had no authority to determine the effective date of the agreement.