DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY BUREAU OF THE PUBLIC DEBT PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA and CHAPTER 190, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
BUREAU OF THE PUBLIC DEBT
PARKERSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA
CHAPTER 190, NATIONAL TREASURY
Case No. 00 FSIP 48
DECISION AND ORDER
The Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt, Parkersburg, West Virginia (Bureau or Employer) and Chapter 190, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU or Union) filed a joint 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.
Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which involves procedures for the selection of seating assignments,(1) the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with Executive Director H. Joseph Schimansky for the purpose of resolving the matter. The parties were advised that if no settlement was reached, Mr. Schimansky would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and his recommendations for resolving the issues. After considering the report, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.
Pursuant to the Panel’s determination, Mr. Schimansky met with the parties on June 21, 2000, at the United Square Building in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The parties were unable to reach a voluntary settlement during the informal conference.(2) At the close of the meeting, the parties submitted their final offers. Subsequently, statements of position in support of their final offers also were submitted. Mr. Schimansky has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.
The Employer’s mission is to borrow the money needed to operate the Federal Government; account for the resulting debt; and to issue Treasury securities to refund maturing debt and raise new money. The Union represents approximately 1,300 General Schedule and Wage Grade employees who are part of a nationwide, consolidated bargaining unit. Employees work in such positions as accountant (GS-7 through -12), computer specialist (GS-9 through -13), accounting technician (GS-4 through -9), and secretary (GS-6). The parties are covered by a master collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which is due to expire on October 31, 2002.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over the procedure to be used for allocating seating assignments for this and all future relocations of unit employees within ASD.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Union’s Position
The Union proposes that the procedure to be used regarding moves by ASD be based on seniority in service according to employees’ service computation date (SCD). Its proposal represents the status quo within ASD in particular, and the Bureau as a whole. This was confirmed by a Union member and witness who, among other things, stated during the informal conference that the Bureau "always followed the practice of using seniority for selecting office seating assignments dating back to the early 1990's." In addition, two Bureau managers affirmed on the record that they "followed the past practice by allowing employees to choose seat assignments based on seniority." The existence of this past practice is further supported by two agreements between NTEU and another Office and Division within the Bureau, dated March 3, 2000, and February 3, 1995, respectively.
The status quo should be maintained because it is fair to current Bureau employees and motivates them "to achieve high performance by facilitating a positive workplace." In this regard, it "rewards employees that have been serving the Bureau for a substantial period of time," and is "one of very few amenities the Federal government can offer employees." The Employer’s "ludicrous" conclusion that seat selection on a seniority basis would "discourage candidates for employment" was contradicted by one of its own managers, who stated that candidates seek employment with the Bureau "because of the nature of the work itself." Finally, the Employer’s argument that its seat assignment procedure should be adopted because it would ensure that accountants’ privacy needs are met "has been vastly exaggerated" and is "unsupported by the record evidence." The claim is undercut by ASD’s current practice of seating 2 to 3 accountants within each private office, and by the fact that the entire 8th floor "was quieter than a church after services" when the parties surveyed the space during the informal conference.
2. The Employer’s Position
Essentially, for this and all future moves affecting bargaining-unit employees in ASD, accountants would be seated around the exterior of the work area. The order of selecting would be based on the employee’s SCD. Accounting technicians would choose from pods located in the interior of the work space. The order of selecting would be based on the employee’s SCD. Contrary to the Union’s contentions, it is the Employer’s proposed procedure which represents the status quo as it has existed within the various branches of ASD and their predecessor organizations. In this regard, in 1998 the two other branches currently within ASD (but then a part of the Division of Financial Management, another division of ARC), the Administrative Accounts Branch (AAB) and the Financial Information Resources Branch (FIRB), reconfigured their work space. At that time, the Bureau and NTEU "informally worked out an arrangement" whereby the space first was divided by work function. Employees within functional areas essentially were assigned workstations on the basis of highest grade level, and SCD within grade levels. This was also the case prior to the current move of FASB employees into the United Square Building. In their previous locations, FASB accountants selected their workstations first, junior accountants selected second, and accounting technicians selected last. As this history demonstrates, it is management that is attempting "to continue its existing seating arrangement from its previous work locations." It is the Union, therefore, that should bear the burden of demonstrating why the status quo should be changed.
Since there is no uniform Bureau-wide policy or past practice which addresses the assignment of seating to bargaining-unit employees, the Union’s "desire for comparability" with other Bureau organizations "should not overcome ASD’s desire to maintain the status quo." Furthermore, the workstations around the exterior of the room "offer some additional privacy" to accountants, who "have the more difficult tasks that require greater concentration and