DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE BROOKLYN DISTRICT OFFICE BROOKLYN, NEW YORK and CHAPTER 53, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

BROOKLYN DISTRICT OFFICE

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

and

CHAPTER 53, NATIONAL TREASURY

EMPLOYEES UNION

Case No. 00 FSIP 8

 

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Chapter 53, National Treasury Employees Union (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Brooklyn District, Brooklyn, New York (Employer).

        After investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns whether an analog telephone line should be provided to the Union office, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of a single written submission from each of the parties. After receiving their submissions, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.(1)

BACKGROUND

    The mission of the Employer is to assess and collect taxes. The Union represents approximately 300 bargaining-unit employees in the Garden City, and Hauppauge, New York, posts of duty (POD) who are part of a nationwide consolidated unit. They work in positions such as revenue officer and agent, taxpayer service representative, and tax auditor, at grades GS-5 through -13. The parties are covered by a master collective bargaining agreement (NORD V), which is effective until June 30, 2002. In 1998, nationally, the Employer converted its analog telephone system to a digital voice messaging system (VMS).(2)

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The sole issue is whether, and in what manner, the Employer should install an analog telephone line in the Chapter 53 office in the Garden City POD.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes to permit the Union to install, at the Union’s expense, a telephone, an answering machine, and a "splitter" device for the analog line currently used for the facsimile machine. The Employer would provide a dialing code to permit the Union to enable a "call forwarding" function, whereby incoming VMS calls are forwarded to the analog line (and answering machine), at its discretion;(3) the Employer would further provide the Union with a speed dialing option enabling it to access VMS more quickly. The proposal addresses the Employer’s need for access to the Union through the VMS network, when the call forwarding function is disabled, and would enable Union representatives to screen calls through an answering machine when call forwarding is enabled. The VMS system is used to keep employees and Union representatives informed of news and important announcements. Under the VMS system, toll-free calls may be made to Union representatives from remote locations, the Union may be included in multi-broadcast messages, and management may verify whether and when the Union has accessed VMS messages. The proposal contemplates that, prior to leaving the Union office unattended, Union representatives will disable the call forwarding function and thereby enable the Employer to access the Union through the VMS network. The speed dial function, which provides nearly instant access to VMS, expedites the VMS message retrieval process, which the Union asserts is cumbersome.

2. The Union’s Position

    Essentially, the Union proposes that the Employer install an additional analog telephone line in the Union office and reprogram the VMS line so incoming VMS calls would be routed to the analog line and answering machine. In the event there are no additional analog lines available, the Employer would be required to reprogram the VMS line so that calls ordinarily received in VMS would be transferred to the analog line connected to the facsimile machine; either the facsimile machine would be reprogrammed, or a "splitter" device installed at the Union’s expense, to allow it to route the call either to the answering machine or the facsimile machine. Prior to the conversion to VMS, the Union was provided with two analog telephone lines; when one line was busy, an incoming call would "roll-over" to the other analog line and answering machine. The Union representative could thereby "screen" the call and opt to answer the call or let the caller complete the message.(4) At present in its office, the Union has one VMS line and one analog line which is used for a facsimile machine.

    Its proposal would provide a more efficient system of communication for conducting representational duties than the Employer’s. Incoming calls may be answered on the VMS line which, in the absence of a "call forwarding" function, would ring a designated number of times before the call is routed to the analog line and answering machine. In addition, because the analog line for the facsimile machine is not shared (under the first part of its proposed wording), the system would be capable of simultaneously receiving telephone calls and facsimile transmissions. Given the Employer’s acknowledgment that it relies, in part, on facsimile communication with the Union, an added analog line would provide the Employer with greater access by facsimile to the Union office. Nor does the Employer contend that its proposal is cost prohibitive. Finally, contrary to the Employer’s contention, the Union would remain accessible through the VMS system because management may always leave VMS messages on the Chapter president’s personal VMS line.

CONCLUSION

    Having reviewed the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude that the dispute should be resolved through the adoption of a modified version of the Union’s proposal. In our view, it is reasonable for the Employer to provide an additional analog line to the Union office, and to reprogram the VMS line so that incoming calls would be routed to that analog line after a designated number of rings. The solution adopted restores to the Union its capacity to screen calls, and is more efficient than the Employer’s proposal because Union representatives would have the option of answering incoming VMS calls before they are routed to the analog line and answering machine. In addition, it is more efficient than the Employer’s proposal, or the alternative approach contained in the Union’s proposal, because one of the analog lines would be dedicated to the facsimile machine and not shared; the facsimile machine would, therefore, remain operative while the Union is using the telephone. Moreover, the Employer’s contention that the Union could circumvent VMS access is unconvincing. In this regard, the record reveals that the Employer may leave electronic voice messages on the Chapter president’s personal VMS line, and on the VMS line currently maintained in the Union office through the separate "dial-in/code entry" procedure. Finally, we note that additional VMS access to the Union is authorized under NORD V.(5)

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regul