46:0578(56)NG - - AFGE Local 2612 and Air Force, Griffis AFB, Rome Laboratory, Rome, NY - - 1992 FLRAdec NG - - v46 p578



[ v46 p578 ]
46:0578(56)NG
The decision of the Authority follows:


46 FLRA No. 56

FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY

WASHINGTON, D.C.

_____

AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

LOCAL 2612

(Union)

and

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

GRIFFISS AIR FORCE BASE

ROME LABORATORY

ROME, NEW YORK

(Agency)

0-NG-2058

_____

DECISION AND ORDER ON A NEGOTIABILITY ISSUE

November 20, 1992

_____

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 involves the negotiability of one proposal concerning the assignment of bargaining unit employees to Total Quality Management (TQM) teams. For the following reasons, we find that the proposal is nonnegotiable because it excessively interferes with the Agency's right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute.

II. Preliminary Matters

The Agency asserts that the Union's petition for review should be dismissed because it does not include an explicit statement of meaning attributed to the proposal. The Union disagrees and contends that the plain wording of the proposal "needs no additional elaboration." Reply Brief at 9.

We reject the Agency's assertion that the Union's petition for review is deficient. We conclude that the Union has provided a satisfactory statement of meaning concerning the proposal and that the record, including the plain wording of the proposal, is sufficient to rule on the negotiability of the proposal. Accordingly, the Agency's request to dismiss the Union's petition is denied. See American Federation of Government Employees, Department of Education Council of AFGE Locals and U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., 38 FLRA 1068, 1071 (1990), rev'd as to other matters sub nom. U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, New Orleans, Louisiana v. FLRA, 969 F.2d 1158 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

In addition, the parties disagree over whether, or to what extent, they have agreed to aspects of TQM. The Agency asserts that the Union "unconditionally agreed" to certain aspects of a TQM process. Statement of Position at 6. The Union asserts that the assignment of unit employees to TQM teams, without Union approval, "would amount to a[n] unfair labor practice" and that any agreement reached with the Agency was merely "tentative." Reply Brief at 10, 11. Insofar as the parties contend that this dispute affects their obligation to bargain over the disputed proposal, the dispute should be resolved in other appropriate proceedings. American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Local 1808 and U.S. Department of the Army, Sierra Army Depot, Herlong, California, 42 FLRA 542, 546 (1991). However, as the Agency asserts that the proposal is nonnegotiable under section 7117 of the Statute, the Union's petition is properly before us.

III. Proposal

Unit employees' participation in TQM teams will be purely voluntary. An employee shall not be adversely affected in the condition of employment by his or her involvement or non-involvement in the TQM process. Management agrees to fully inform employees of the voluntary nature of joining TQM teams and all the aspects of TQM prior to requesting bargaining unit employees to participate in the TQM process.

IV. Positions of the Parties

A. Union

The Union contends that the proposal constitutes an appropriate arrangement under section 7106(b)(3) of the Statute because it would alleviate the adverse effects on unit employees of the exercise of management's rights to assign work and direct employees. The Union asserts that the proposal is designed to prevent the performance of a TQM group as a whole "from lowering the [performance] rating" of an individual team member. Reply Brief at 17. The Union also asserts that the proposal would protect team members from retaliation which could result from "criticizing superiors, or the ideas of superiors." Id.

B. Agency

The Agency contends that the proposal directly and excessively interferes with its rights to direct employees, assign work, assign employees, and take disciplinary action. The Agency asserts that the proposal would prevent management from assigning an employee to a TQM team unless the employee volunteered for the assignment. In addition, the Agency contends that the proposal "is overly broad" because some of the issues addressed by a TQM team may not concern conditions of employment. Statement of Position at 3. The Agency argues that the proposal is not negotiable as a procedure under section 7106(b)(2) of the Statute or an appropriate arrangement under section 7106(b)(3).

V. Analysis and Conclusions

A. Right to Assign Work

The right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute includes the right to assign particular duties, including duties which are unrelated or incidental to an employee's position description. For example, National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1452 and U.S. Department of the Navy, Naval Training Center, Orlando, Florida, 43 FLRA 54, 59 (1991) (Naval Training Center), petition for review filed sub nom. National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1452 v. FLRA, No. 91-1624 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 19, 1991). Proposals prohibiting such assignments directly interfere with the right to assign work. See Naval Training Center, 43 FLRA at 60.

The disputed proposal would prohibit the Agency from assigning unit employees the duties attendant to participation on TQM teams. Accordingly, and noting that the Union does not argue to the contrary, we conclude that the proposal directly interferes with the Agency's right to assign work under section 7106(a)(2)(B) of the Statute.

B. Appropriate Arrangement

A proposal that directly interferes with management's rights under section 7106(a) of the Statute is negotiable if it constitutes an appropriate arrangement within the meaning of section 7106(b)(3) of the Statute. To determine whether a proposal constitutes an appropriate arrangement, we determine whether the proposal is: (1) intended as an arrangement for employees adversely affected by the exercise of a management right; and (2) appropriate because it does not excessively interfere with the exercise of management's right. National Association of Government Employees, Local R14-87 and Kansas Army National Guard, 21 FLRA 24, 31 (1986).

The Union contends that the proposal is intended as an appropriate arrangement for employees who are adversely affected by being asked to participate in the TQM program. Assuming that the proposal is intended as an arrangement, under section 7106(b)(3) of the Statute, we conclude that the proposal is nonnegotiable because it excessively interferes with management's right to assign work.

The Union argues that the proposal would alleviate adverse effects on unit employees that could result from the exercise of management's right to assign employees to a TQM team. In particular, the Union cites the potential adverse impact of a TQM team's performance on the appraisals of individual team members. The Union also argues that the proposal protects employees from "retaliation for criticizing superiors, or the ideas of superiors." Reply Brief at 17. According to the Union, the proposal would promote the TQM process by making employee participation voluntary.

Although the benefits afforded by the proposal to employees participating in the TQM program could, in some circumstances, be significant, we conclude that, on balance, the benefits are outweighed by the burden the proposal places on the Agency's exercise of its right to assign work. In this regard, the proposal would absolutely prohibit the Agency from assigning employees to a TQM team unless the employees first volunteered to serve on the team. Even in situations where, for example, there were insufficient volunteers, management would be precluded from assigning qualified employees to the team. As the proposal encompasses no exceptions allowing the Agency to assign employees to TQM teams, we conclude that the proposal excessively interferes with the Agency's right to assign work and is nonnegotiable. See Naval Training Center, 43 FLRA at 63 (proposal prohibiting agency from assigning certain duties to employees held to excessively interfere with agency's right to assign work). In view of our decision, we do not address the Agency's additional arguments.

VI. Order

The petition for review is dismissed.