51:1640(136)AR - - Intl. Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, Panama Canal Pilots Branch and Panama Canal Commission - - 1996 FLRAdec AR - - v51 p1640

[ v51 p1640 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

51 FLRA No. 136













July 26, 1996


Before the Authority: Phyllis N. Segal, Chair; Tony Armendariz and Donald S. Wasserman, Members.

I. Statement of the Case

This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to an award of Arbitrator Diane Dunham Massey filed by the Union under section 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Regulations. The Agency filed an opposition to the Union's exceptions.

The Arbitrator found that the Agency did not violate the parties' collective bargaining agreement by concluding that a pilot must, at the least, board a vessel in order to receive a credit for an Unscheduled Assignment Bonus (UAB) under the parties' agreement. For the following reasons, we conclude that the Union has not demonstrated that the award is deficient because it fails to draw its essence from the agreement. Accordingly, we deny the exceptions.

II. Background and Arbitrator's Award

The grievants, pilots for the Agency, are responsible for piloting vessels through the Panama Canal. Both grievants reported to work for previously unscheduled assignments but, due to various operational and weather considerations, were released from their assignments prior to boarding a vessel. As a result, the grievants contended that they were eligible for a UAB, which grants pilots a bonus for each unscheduled assignment.(1)

The parties stipulated the issues before the Arbitrator as follows:

1. Whether the release of the Grievants before boarding the vessel counts as an assignment for the purpose of paragraphs 11 and 12 of the [MOU] between the Parties?

2. If so, what is the appropriate remedy?

3. Which employees are entitled to relief, if it is so ordered?

Award at 2.

The Arbitrator noted that the parties each defined an assignment, for purposes of a UAB, differently -- the Union's interpretation requiring a pilot to merely "report" to work to qualify and the Agency requiring a pilot to at least board a vessel before being eligible. In addition to provisions contained in the text of the MOU, the Union relied on provisions contained in Appendix A to the MOU.(2) The Arbitrator reviewed the provisions cited by the Union but found the Agency's interpretation consistent with her analysis of paragraphs 11 and 12 of the MOU.

Interpreting paragraphs 11 and 12 of the MOU, the Arbitrator found that paragraph 11 speaks in terms of working "'piloting assignments[,]'" which are defined in paragraph 12 as "'transit, partial, harbor, or shuttle[.]'" Award at 27-28. Based on these provisions, she concluded that "[c]ommon sense dictates" that merely being scheduled or reporting for a piloting assignment does not constitute "working a piloting assignment." Id. at 28. The Arbitrator also concluded that because Appendix A is specifically designated as "'not part of the Agreement'" it was not entitled to "equivalent deference" even though it appears to contradict paragraphs 11 and 12 of the MOU. Id. at 27.

The Arbitrator also considered evidence of memoranda, past practice, and bargaining history, finding it consistent with the Agency's interpretation of the MOU. The Arbitrator noted that, pursuant to past practice, work was performed when a pilot boarded a vessel assigned to him. Additionally, although the Arbitrator noted that the bargaining history was unclear, she found that it "[did] not indicate that the Agency acted inconsistently with its position during negotiations with the Union." Id. at 31.

The Arbitrator concluded that a pilot must, at the least, board a vessel to qualify for a UAB. Accordingly, the Arbitrator denied the grievance.

III. Exceptions

A. Union's Exceptions

The Union argues that the award is deficient because it does not draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement. The Union contends that the Arbitrator failed to consider a side bar agreement (Appendix A) to the MOU and amendments to Article 17 of the master agre