43:0074(6)NG - - NFFE Local 284 and Navy, Naval Air Engineering Center, Lakehurst, NJ - - 1991 FLRAdec NG - - v43 p74
[ v43 p74 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
43 FLRA No. 6
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
NAVAL AIR ENGINEERING CENTER
LAKEHURST, NEW JERSEY
DECISION AND ORDER ON A NEGOTIABILITY ISSUE
November 8, 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 under section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) concerning the negotiability of one proposal.
For the following reasons, we find that the proposal, which requires the Agency to give employees the option of using a Government credit card or receiving an 80 percent travel advance, is nonnegotiable because it is inconsistent with Government-wide regulations.
Management agrees that the employee will be given the option of using a government credit card, with bills going directly to the agency (B-237883, DTD 5 JAN 90, COMP GEN. DECISION) or the option of receiving 80% of travel funds in advance.
III. Positions of the Parties
The Agency argues that the proposal is inconsistent with 41 C.F.R. § 301-10.3.(b) and (c)(4). According to the Agency, these Government-wide regulations "preclude the issuance of travel advances to employees who choose not to use a contractor-issued charge card." Statement of Position at 2. The Agency relies on National Association of Government Employees, Local R12-40 and Federal Union of Scientists and Engineers, Local R12-198 and U.S. Department of the Navy, Naval Ship Weapon Systems Engineering Station, Port Hueneme, California, 36 FLRA 168, 172 (1990) (Port Hueneme). The Agency also claims that the unpublished Comptroller General decision cited in the proposal does not apply in this case.
The Union argues only that the proposal is negotiable because it "does not meet the criteria of 5 CFR [§] 2424.11[.]" Petition for Review. The Union did not file a reply brief.
IV. Analysis and Conclusions
The proposal provides employees with the option of using a Government credit card (with charges to be billed to the Agency) or receiving an 80 percent travel advance. The proposal is similar to a disputed proposal in Port Hueneme, which allowed "employees who do not wish to use a charge card to receive up to 80 percent funding for a travel advance[.]" 36 FLRA at 172. The Authority found that the proposal in Port Hueneme was inconsistent with Federal Property Management Regulation (FPMR), Temporary Regulation A-34, paragraph 1-10.3.c.(4), a Government-wide regulation, which "preclude[d] the issuance of travel advances to employees who choose not to use a contractor-issued charge card." Id.
The FPMR involved in Port Hueneme has been permanently codified at 41 C.F.R. § 301-10.3(c)(4), a part of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTRs), and is a Government-wide regulation. International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 28 and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, 38 FLRA 1123, 1127 (1990) (NASA). In NASA, the Authority addressed the regulation in connection with a proposal which would have required the agency to provide employees with certain travel advances. The Authority noted that travel advances may be provided under the FTRs only for certain expenses. The Authority also noted that although the FTRs provide exceptions to the limitations on travel advances, the exceptions do not apply, under section 301-10.3(c)(4), to employees who choose not to use a contractor-issued charge card. As the disputed proposal in NASA would have encompassed travel advances for expenses other than those authorized and would have required the agency to provide advances to employees who were not eligible for such advances, the Authority concluded that the proposal was nonnegotiable. Id. at 1127-28.
The proposal in this case expressly would require the Agency to provide travel advances to employees who elected not to use "a [G]overment credit card[.]" As such, the proposal encompasses employees who, under 41 C.F.R. § 301-10.3(c)(4), are not eligible for travel advances. Accordingly, consistent with NASA and Port Hueneme, we conclude that the proposal is inconsistent with that regulation and is nonnegotiable under section 7117(a)(1) of the Statute. In so concluding, we do not address whether, like the disputed proposal in NASA, the proposal also would encompass expenses for which travel advances are not authorized.
We note, further, that as the proposal is inconsistent with a Government-wide regulation, the Union's reliance on section 2424.11 of the Authority's Regulations is misplaced. That regulation contains the criteria by which the Authority determines whether there is a compelling need for agency regulations. It does not apply to Government-wide regulations.
The proposal also would provide employees an option to use a Government credit card "with bills going directly to the [A]gency . . . ." The proposal cites, in connection with this option, the Comptroller General's unpublished opinion in B-237883 (Jan. 5, 1990). In that case, the Comptroller General found no objection to the issuance by the Department of Commerce of "corporate charge cards, which are billed to the agency itself rather than to individual employees, . . . to obtain group training facilities which may be chosen on short notice in remote locations." Comp. Gen. No. B-237883, slip op. at 1 (Jan. 5, 1990) (Unpublished). The Comptroller General noted that the agency had established numerous limitations on the use of such cards and that the "charge cards billed to individuals [were] unsuitable" for the expenses to be encompassed by the cards. Id. See also Comp. Gen. No. B-230696 (March 30, 1988) (unpublished) (Comptroller General found no objection to agency's proposal to use corporate charge cards for limited purpose of enabling officials to pay for expenses incurred by foreign inspection teams in connection with verification of Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty).
We find nothing in these Comptroller General decisions which would authorize other than limited exceptions to the general requirement that employees use travel charge cards, with charges billed directly to employees, for Government travel. See 41 C.F.R. § 301-10.1(c) ("Agencies shall offer Government contractor-issued charge cards to all employees who are expected to travel at least twice a year . . . ."). See also NASA, 38 FLRA at 1129-31. Nothing in the record before us establishes that such limited exceptions are present in this case.
Finally, as the Union does not assert that this portion of the proposal was intended to encompass a "centrally billed" account, as discussed in 41 C.F.R. § 301-15.45(a), it is unnecessary to address at length the Agency's arguments with respect to such accounts. We note, however, that these accounts are authorized in limited circumstances only and are to be used "primarily to purchase transportation services for . . . employees not designated to receive individual cards." 41 C.F.R. § 301-45(a). See also id. at subsection (b) (centrally billed accounts "may be used only if agencies use a [Travel Management Center] or agency travel office. They are intended principally to supplement the individual card, rather than as the sole means of purchasing transportation tickets for all agency employees.").
In sum, we conclude that the proposal would require the Agency to issue travel advances in circumstances that are inconsistent with the FTRs. The proposal also would require the Agency to issue agency-billed charge cards in situations where such