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

and

 

CHAPTER 190, NATIONAL TREASURY

EMPLOYEES UNION

 

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.

BACKGROUND

    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 attention to detail." Finally, ARC has grown in the past 3 years from about 30 to approximately 95 employees, of which 38 are accountants. The Union’s proposal is inconsistent with the organization’s need to attract and retain "high quality, well-educated accountants," and its adoption would send a message that "their services and talents are not appreciated."

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that neither party’s position adequately addresses the procedure that should be used for this and all future relocations of unit employees within ASD. Preliminarily, the record establishes that the seating assignment practices within ASD historically have differed from those of the larger Bureau divisions in Parkersburg where seniority in service has generally been used. In our view, the Union has failed to demonstrate the need to change the status quo as it has existed within the various branches of ASD. The Employer’s proposed procedure, on the other hand, while consistent with the practice followed during previous ASD relocations, was designed with the United Square Building in mind, and may not be as well-suited for future relocations of ASD employees involving other buildings. Given the recent and projected growth in ARC, we believe a more generic procedure is warranted. Moreover, the Employer’s approach does not permit accounting technicians to occupy window spaces which currently are vacant.

    Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of compromise wording which: (1) permits management to determine the appropriate functional groupings of employees;(3) (2) allocates all bargaining-unit workstations within each grouping on the basis of highest grade level, and SCD within each grade level; (3) allocates the first bargaining-unit workstation which becomes vacant after initial assignments have been made using SCD, the second using highest grade level and SCD within grade level, and allocates all subsequent vacant bargaining-unit workstations by alternating the use of these two procedures; and (4) requires the Employer to notify the Union in writing when bargaining-unit workstations become vacant, and specify the particular allocation pursuant to Section 3 above. We note that the compromise, for the most part, imposes the settlement the parties were on the verge of adopting during the informal conference. Overall, it appears to provide a workable solution for this and all future relocations within ASD which balances the parties’ legitimate interests.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because ofthe 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 § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the following:

    The parties shall adopt the following wording to resolve their impasse:

The following procedures shall apply to this and all future relocations affecting bargaining-unit employees in the Administrative Services Division: 1. The Employer shall determine the appropriate functional groupings of employees. 2. After the Employer determines the appropriate functional groupings, all bargaining-unit workstations within each grouping shall be allocated on the basis of highest grade level, and Service Computation Date (SCD) within each grade level. 3. The first bargaining-unit workstation which becomes vacant after initial assignments have been made shall be allocated using SCD, and the second shall be allocated using highest grade level and SCD within grade level; the use of these two procedures shall alternate in the allocation of all subsequent vacant bargaining-unit workstations. 4. The Employer shall notify the Union in writing when bargaining-unit workstations become vacant, and specify the particular allocation pursuant to Section 3.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

July 14, 2000

Washington, D.C.

1. The dispute arose after post-implementation bargaining over the Employer’s decision to move approximately 32 accountants and accounting technicians in the Franchise Accounting Services Branch (FASB) of the Accounting Services Division (ASD) from their previous locations to the 6th and 8th floors of the United Square Building. The relocation was implemented on December 6, 1999. FASB is one of three branches within ASD. ASD is a division within the Bureau’s Administrative Resource Center (ARC), which is a member of the Treasury Franchise Fund. ARC provides administrative services, such as financial and personnel management, to other agencies. As a fund member, ARC relies solely on reimbursable revenue to pay its organizational expenses. ARC is one of seven major offices within the Bureau, but the only one that is a member of the Treasury Franchise Fund.

2. While the parties appeared to be moving in the direction of a mutually a