DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE NEW LONDON GROTON, CONNECTICUT and LOCAL R1-100, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE NEW LONDON

GROTON, CONNECTICUT

and

LOCAL R1-100, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU,

AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 00 FSIP 19

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local R1-100, National Association of Government Employees, SEIU, AFL-CIO, (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse between it and the Department of the Navy, Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut (Employer), resulting from an agency determination not to establish a 5-4/9 compressed work schedule (CWS) under the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982 (Act), 5 U.S.C. §§ 6120-6133.(1)

    Following investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved on the basis of an informal conference with Panel Member John G. Wofford. The parties were advised that if no settlement was reached, Mr. Wofford would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including his recommendations to the Panel for resolving the matter. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Accordingly, Mr. Wofford held an informal conference with the parties on February 24, 2000. Although the parties explored settlement possibilities, the dispute was not resolved. Subsequent to the informal conference, the parties submitted written statements in support of their respective positions.(2) The Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to maintain and support 17 nuclear powered "fast attack" submarines.(3) The Union represents 500 nonprofessional bargaining-unit employees in General Schedule and Wage Grade (WG) positions such as computer specialist, supply technician, electrician, and welder. This dispute concerns WG-10 crane operators and riggers who are part of the crane operations in the Public Works Department. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is effective through October 2000.(4)

    The crane operation involves 14 bargaining-unit employees, including a Rigging Work Leader, one Rigger (for a maintenance area known as the "Rigging Loft"), six crane operators, and six other riggers. The crane work performed includes ordnance loading (torpedoes and cruise missiles), equipment installations, and regular maintenance and repair. Three crews, which consist of one crane operator and either one or two riggers, are scheduled Monday through Friday, from 0730 to 1600. More complex lifts require the presence of a supervisor; lifts involving radioactive materials require two crane operators, two riggers, and a supervisor. At SSSU’s request, a "swing shift," consisting of one crew, is scheduled Monday through Friday from 1000 to 1800. Waterfront operations, including crane lifts, are directed, prioritized, and scheduled on a daily basis by SSSU, but the civilian crane staff report to and are paid by the Public Works Department. The first crane lifts of the day typically begin at 0830, and the crews usually return to the shop at 1530 for checking out.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The issue before the Panel is whether the finding on which the Employer has based its determination not to establish a 5-4/9 CWS for crane operators and riggers is supported by evidence that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact.(5)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Panel should find that the evidence on which the Employer bases its decision not to implement the proposed CWS establishes that the schedule would likely cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act. The proposed CWS would cause both a reduction in productivity and an increase in the agency’s costs. Because "emergent" crane lift needs, which require "same day" completion, occur frequently, there is a "critical mass" requirement of 11 employees, or 4 crews, each day. The current complement, working regular schedules with occasional overtime, just meets this staffing requirement. In addition, to permit sailors in-port time with their families pursuant to the Navy’s Inter-Deployment Training Cycles Reduction (ITCR) policy, crane lifts are scheduled between 0800 and 1530 to coincide with the schedule of military personnel, as well as technical experts from NSSF and other entities.(6) Crane lift operations decrease significantly after 1600, and any staffing requirements for the period 1600 to 1800 are currently completed by the swing shift, which is often underutilized during this time, but nevertheless maintained at SSSU’s request. Even with the flexibility of determining employees’ daily starting and quitting times, under the Union’s proposal, which would permit 11 unit employees to work 9-hour days, there would be more staff than needed for the periods prior to 0800 and after 1600, with resulting reductions in productivity.

    A comparison of the Union’s proposal to actual staffing requirements and attendance for the period June to November 1999, reveals that 11 employees on CWS would have caused a 662 hour loss of productivity for hours worked between 1600 and 1700, at an annualized cost of $21,195, and a shortfall of personnel on 76 out of 126 work days. In addition, the proposed CWS would likely cause the Employer to incur significant additional overtime costs to properly staff the operation when those shortfalls occur.

2. The Union’s Position

    Under the Union's proposal, 11 employees in the crane and rigging section would work a 5-4/9 CWS for a 6-month trial period, but the Union "would be willing to entertain other time frames (possibly 3 months);" employees' RDO and the daily starting and quitting times would be "flexible." The Employer has not established that the proposed CWS would have an adverse agency impact. A 6-month CWS test period, or even a test period of a shorter duration, would afford the parties an opportunity to determine the validity of the Employer’s predictions that the schedule would result in a reduction of productivity and increased costs. The parties’ CBA contemplates that AWS will be available to employees, and the Employer has granted CWS to other employees at the base, including employees in the Public Works Department. The Employer’s projections regarding increases in cost under the Union’s proposal were "based on improper scheduling;" if scheduled properly, "there would be little or no increase in cost associated" with the CWS.

    The Employer overstates the extent to which crane lifts must be scheduled during the "core hours" of military personnel. The Employer’s study indicates that significant amounts of crane work are performed, often at overtime rates, after 1600, notwithstanding the Navy-wide policy to reduce sailors’ work requirements while they are in port. In addition, by lengthening the workday of employees beyond 1600, CWS may reduce the number of crane lift jobs that must be carried over or rescheduled to the next day, and decrease overtime costs associated with such scheduling. This was confirmed at the informal conference by the management official from SSSU responsible for scheduling waterfront operations, who stated that implementation of CWS "would probably relieve the carry-over of work to the next day." Finally, if the Employer believes it does not have enough employees "the Union strongly suggests that it hire more."

CONCLUSIONS

    Under section 6131(c)(3) of the Act, the Panel is required to take final action in favor of an agency determination if the finding on which the determination is based is supported by evidence that a CWS is likely to cause an adverse agency impact. Having considered the record before us, we conclude that the Employer has met its statutory burden. In this regard, the record supports the conclusion that implementation of the Union’s proposed CWS would likely cause a reduction in productivity and an increase in the cost of the agency’s operations.

    Under the Union’s proposal, the work days of 11 unit employees unavoidably would be lengthened before 0730 in the morning and/or after 1600 hours. The Employer’s data, however, reflect that no crane-lift related work is scheduled prior to 0730, and most unfinished crane-lift work performed after 1600 is completed by personnel on the swing shift. In addition, the scheduling of crane lifts is outside the Employer’s control since SSSU prioritizes and schedules the work to coincide with the presence of military personnel whose hours, under the ITCR policy, generally fall between 0800 and 1530. To prevent delays and possible related penalties, the military makes every effort to complete the crane lift work by 1530 of the same day. For this reason, the swing shift frequently has insufficient work from 1600 to 1800. As the Employer’s calculations show, had the proposed CWS been in effect from June to November 1999, it would have resulted in 662 unproductive man-hours after 1600, at an annualized cost of $21,195. While the Employer’s data also reflect that it occasionally employs some personnel on an overtime basis after 1600 to complete crane lifts, we are persuaded that the limited use of overtime, rather than the permanent scheduling of additional crane personnel during periods where little or no crane lift work may be performed, is more cost-efficient. Therefore, we find that the adoption of CWS for a significant number of employees (11 out of 14) would likely result in a reduction of the productivity of the agency.

    In our view, CWS also is likely to increase the cost of the Employer’s operations. The Employer’s 6-month overlay study indicates that, had CWS been implemented during that time period, it would have experienced a staffing shortfall on 76 of the 126 working days. To make up for the shortfall and to prevent attendant delays in completing crane lifts, the Employer would have had to schedule crane personnel at an overtime rate, an added cost to the operation. Accordingly, the Employer has met its burden of demonstrating that the implementation of the Union’s proposed CWS would likely result in adverse agency impact. While acknowledging with favor its offer of flexibility in attempting to overcome these inherent deficiencies, we nevertheless shall order the Union to withdraw its proposal.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by section 6131 (c) of the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act, the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under section 2472.11(a)(2) of its regulations, hereby orders that the Union’s proposed 5-4/9 compressed work schedule be withdrawn.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

April 28, 2000

Washington, D.C.

1.Under a 5-4/9 schedule, employees work eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day, and have one regular day off (RDO) each pay period.

2.Shortly after the informal conference, the Panel directed the parties by letter to submit their supporting statements by close of business on Tuesday, March 21, 2000. Although the Union maintained, in a subsequent telephone conversation with the Panel’s staff, that its statement had been sent by first class mail to both the Panel and the Employer on March 17, it was not received by the Panel until March 30; the envelope bore a March 17 U.S. Postal Service postmark. On March 30, the Employer filed a motion requesting that the Panel disregard the Union’s 1½-page submission. While the Union’s submission was not received on the specified due date, we believe that our letter should have been clearer regarding the Panel’s service requirements. Because this may have contributed to its late arrival, and the evidence shows that the Union intended to comply with the Panel’s directive, the Employer’s motion is denied.

3.Major tenant commands at the base include three Submarine Squadrons, and the Naval Submarine Support Facility (NSSF), and the Submarine Squadron Support Unit (SSSU). Approximately 10 submarines are in port at any given time. A quarterly schedule exists for deployment (28 days per quarter), and upkeep maintenance (35 days per quarter). The remaining time is used for training. More significant maintenance and repair work is performed in accordance with “Selected Restricted Availabilities” (SRA), which are scheduled and tracked by the Chief of Naval Operations. According to the Employer, delays in SRA scheduled maintenance result in a $50,000 daily charge.

4.The parties’ CBA refers to, but does not provide for, an alternative work schedule (AWS). Article VIII of the CBA, regarding “Hours of Work,” states that:

 

Except for employees participating in an alternative work schedule, normal work hours will be established (between 0700-1700 with a 30-minute lunch period normally between 1100-1300) to enable management to fulfill their mission support requirements.

The parties have separately negotiated and executed memoranda of agreement establi