41:0073(9)NG - - AFGE, National VA Council and VA, Washington, DC - - 1991 FLRAdec NG - - v41 p73



[ v41 p73 ]
41:0073(9)NG
The decision of the Authority follows:


41 FLRA No. 9

FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY

WASHINGTON, D.C.

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

NATIONAL VETERANS ADMINISTRATION COUNCIL

(Union)

and

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

(Agency)

0-NG-1888

DECISION

June 10, 1991

Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.

I. Statement of the Case

This case is before the Authority on a negotiability appeal filed by the Union under section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute). The appeal concerns five proposals offered by the Union when the Agency announced a proposed furlough for fiscal year 1991 due to a lack of funds.

For the following reasons, we conclude that Proposals 1 and 2, which provide that administrative leave for employees who are subject to an impending furlough is appropriate in order for them to inquire about other jobs or to apply for unemployment benefits, are negotiable. We conclude that Proposal 3, which provides that employees subject to impending furloughs are not to be discouraged from exercising their First Amendment rights in speaking about the furloughs, is negotiable. We conclude that Proposal 4, which provides that if subsequent to a furlough based on a lack of funds the funds become available, the Agency will grant affected employees retroactive administrative leave, is negotiable. We conclude that Proposal 5, which sets forth 19 specified furlough dates for a proposed fiscal year 1991 furlough, is moot.

II. Preliminary Matters

A. Mootness

The Agency asserts that all of the Union's proposals are moot because the proposed furlough to which the Union's proposals were addressed never occurred. The Union asserts that the "parties did not agree to limit the disputed proposals to the furlough the employer proposed to implement as of October 1, 1990." Reply Brief at 3. The Union also argues that its proposals could apply at any time the Agency decided to implement a furlough. As to Proposal 5, the Union notes that Proposal 5 "addresses a time frame which incorporates the entire fiscal year 1991, and, therefore, applies only to that period." Id. at 4 n.1.

1. Proposals 1-4 Are Not Moot

As noted above, Proposals 1 and 2 provide that administrative leave for employees who are subject to an impending furlough is appropriate in order for them to inquire about other jobs or to apply for unemployment benefits. Proposal 3 provides that employees subject to impending furloughs are not to be discouraged from exercising their First Amendment rights in speaking about the furloughs. Proposal 4 provides that if subsequent to a furlough based on a lack of funds the funds become available, the Agency will grant affected employees retroactive administrative leave.

Section 2429.10 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations states that the Authority will not issue advisory opinions. Thus, where the issues which led to the filing of a negotiability petition for review have been resolved, or where there is no longer a dispute between the parties, the Authority will dismiss the petition for review as being moot. See, for example, American Federation of Government Employees, Local 85 and Veterans Administration Medical Center, Leavenworth, Kansas, 32 FLRA 210, 211-12 (1988). The Authority will also dismiss petitions for review as moot in cases where a proposal requires some action on a date that has passed and there is no explanation in the record as to how the proposal could be implemented. National Treasury Employees Union and U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 38 FLRA 263 (1990) (Proposal 1) (BATF).

The furlough proposed by the Agency in August, 1990, which resulted in the submission of the disputed proposals in this case, was never implemented. The Union asserts, however, that the proposals are not limited to the implementation of that furlough. Moreover, Proposals 1-4 do not refer to any particular furlough and do not otherwise require action on dates which have passed. As such, the Union's statement is consistent with the plain wording of Proposals 1-4. Therefore, we conclude that Proposals 1-4 are not moot. See BATF, 38 FLRA at 265 (Proposals 2 and 4).

2. Proposal 5 Is Moot

Proposal 5 provides as follows:

For the period October 16, 1990 through September 30, 1991, those employees wishing a discontinuous furlough, it shall to the extent possible be distributed as follows:

November     2     Days

December     4     Days

January         1     Day

February       1     Day

March           1     Day

April             1     Day

May             0     Day

June             4     Days

July             4     Days

August         0     Day

September   1     Day

As indicated above, Proposal 5, like Proposals 1-4, was offered in response to an Agency intention to furlough employees in fiscal year 1991 due to a lack of funds. Unlike Proposals 1-4, Proposal 5 expressly concerns only the furlough proposed to be implemented in fiscal year 1991. That is, Proposal 5 provides that employees could choose to be furloughed during the fiscal year 1991 furlough on a staggered, or discontinuous basis on 19 specified dates during the year. Contrary to the Union's claim, we conclude that Proposal 5 is moot.

We note that the Authority has found a proposal permitting employees to be furloughed on a discontinuous basis to be negotiable. American Federation of Government Employees, Local 32, AFL-CIO and Office of Personnel Management, 22 FLRA 307, 308 (1986), affirmed mem. sub nom. Office of Personnel Management v. FLRA, No. 86-1482 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 24, 1987). The majority of the dates set out in the proposed fiscal year 1991 furlough schedule in Proposal 5, however, have passed and the particular furlough to which the schedule refers was never implemented. Moreover, the Union offers no explanation as to how this proposal could be implemented. Therefore, we conclude that Proposal 5 is moot and we will dismiss the Union's petition for review as it relates to Proposal 5. See BATF, 38 FLRA at 265 (Proposal 1). In view of our decision that Proposal 5 is moot, it is unnecessary for us to address the Agency's additional arguments concerning the negotiability of Proposal 5.

B. Proposals 1-4 Involve Conditions of Employment

The Agency asserts that the proposals do not involve conditions of employment. The Agency concedes that the furloughs it proposed in August, 1990, "were a matter that potentially affected employees' conditions of employment," but that "they no longer are" because the furlough was never implemented. Statement of Position at 5 (emphasis in original).

In deciding whether a matter involves a condition of employment of bargaining unit employees, the Authority considers whether: (1) the matter pertains to bargaining unit employees; and (2) the record establishes that there is a direct connection between the matter and the work situation or employment relationship of bargaining unit employees. Antilles Consolidated Education Association and Antilles Consolidated School System, 22 FLRA 235, 237 (1986) (Antilles). It is clear, with respect to the first factor, that the Union's proposals pertain to unit employees. We note also that a furlough results in employees being placed in a "temporary status without duties or pay." 5 U.S.C. § 7511(a)(5). Thus, a furlough has a significant impact on the employment relationship of bargaining unit employees. Moreover, the Agency's claim that the proposals do not affect conditions of employment is based solely on its view that the proposals concern a specific furlough that was never implemented. Contrary to the Agency's claim, however, nothing in the wording of Proposals 1-4 limits their application to any specific furlough. Therefore, we conclude that Proposals 1-4 concern conditions of employment of bargaining unit employees.

III. Proposals 1 and 2

Proposal 1

Administrative leave to contact federal job placement officials and employment agencies.

Proposal 2

Administrative time and counseling to apply for unemployment benefits.

A. Positions of the Parties

1. The Agency

The Agency asserts that the proposals require it to grant administrative leave in the stated situations and, therefore, directly interfere with its right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute. The Agency contends that although the Authority has found negotiable proposals "that simply require granting administrative leave after management has approved an employee's absence from work[,]" Proposals 1 and 2 require it to grant administrative leave without giving consideration to staffing or workload requirements. Statement of Position at 9.

2. The Union

The Union contends that the Agency's "discretion to approve administrative leave is a mandatory subject of bargaining[,]" citing American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2298 and U.S. Department of the Navy, Polaris Missile Facility, Atlantic, Charleston, South Carolina, 35 FLRA 591 (1990) (Polaris Missile Facility). Reply Brief at 9.

The Union argues that Proposals 1 and 2 "do not guarantee approval of a request for absence." Id. at 10. The Union states that the proposals "clearly speak to the kind of absence employees would be authorized . . . rather than to the determination regarding whether any absence would be approved or denied." Id.

B. Analysis and Conclusions

Proposals that preserve management's discretion to approve or disapprove employee absences do not conflict with management's right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute. See, for example, Polaris Missile Facility, 35 FLRA at 593 (a proposal granting employees the right to administrative leave to attend a motorcycle training program did not interfere with the agency's right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute where the employees' entitlement to administrative leave was contingent upon the agency's approval of the employee's absence from duty).

In its petition, the Union explains that, under Proposals 1 and 2, "authorized absence," that is, administrative leave, would be used for employees to make contacts concerning other jobs, seek counseling, or apply for unemployment benefits. Petition for Review at 1. In its reply brief, the Union states that Proposals 1 and 2 "do not guarantee approval of a request for absence" because the proposals "clearly speak to the kind of absence employees would be authorized if absence were approved rather than to the determination regarding whether any absence would be approved or denied." Reply Brief at 10.

In our view, the plain wording of Proposals 1 and 2 is consistent with the Union's statements. As worded, the proposals do not require the Agency to grant administrative leave. They merely state some of the purposes for which administrative leave may be granted. Therefore, we adopt the Union's interpretation of the proposals for the purposes of this decision.

Based on the plain wording of Proposals 1 and 2 and the Union's statement, we conclude, consistent with our finding in Polaris Missile Facility, that Proposals 1 and 2 do not require the Agency's approval of any specific request for administrative leave. The proposals merely establish that the use of administrative leave is appropriate for the purposes set forth in the proposals after manageme