NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL WASHINGTON, D.C. and NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD UNION
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
In the Matter of
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL
Case No. 00 FSIP 63
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
DECISION AND ORDER
The National Labor Relations Board 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 (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the National Labor Relations Board, Office of General Counsel, Washington, D.C. (Employer).(1)
Following investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which involves ground rules for two successor collective bargaining agreements (CBA), should be resolved on the basis of single written submissions from the parties, with the Panel limited to selecting between the parties’ final offers. Written submissions were received pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.
The Employer administers provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, which vests it with the authority to, among other things, prosecute complaints in unfair labor practice cases and resolve questions of representation involving private sector employers and unions. The Union represents 1,126 bargaining-unit employees in three different bargaining units. Regarding the two affected units, one consists of 690 professional employees in occupations such as attorney and investigator, at grades GS-5 through -14; the second consists of 291 support employees in positions such as computer assistant or specialist, reader, language assistant or clerk, office manager, and assistant office manager at grades GS-5 through -9.(2) The two CBAs expired on February 29, 2000, but their terms continue by agreement of the parties.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The sole issue in dispute is the amount of money the Employer should contribute towards the travel and per diem expenses of four of the Union’s five-member bargaining team during successor CBA negotiations.(3)
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Employer’s Position
The Employer proposes to pay $20,000 toward the travel and per diem expenses of four Union bargaining team members to attend negotiating sessions to be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., respectively. This amount covers 53 percent of the $37,696 the Union will spend on travel to the four bargaining sessions.(4) The proposal "is both fair and reasonable, especially in light of the fact that the Agency will incur significant additional expenses . . . in connection with the Cincinnati bargaining" where there are fewer resources and less equipment.(5) With respect to the proportion of all bargaining costs, the Employer’s proposal will cover a total of 76 percent of these in contrast to the Union’s proposal, which would require the Employer to cover a total of 86 percent or $71,560. From this perspective, "[a]llowing the Union to pay less than 15 percent of the total costs . . . does not provide a sufficient financial incentive for the Union to move toward agreement in a timely manner." In resolving the parties’ previous ground rules dispute, the Panel required the Employer to pay $30,000, which amounted to 55 percent of the Union’s travel and per diem expenses.(6) While the Employer’s current proposal is comparable (this time it represents 53 percent), the Union’s "would result in the Agency paying nearly 75 percent" of these expenses. With cash assets in excess of $213,000, as disclosed by the Union in its annual financial report to the Department of Labor, it can well afford to cover such costs. For these reasons, the Union should be required to assume a larger share of its own expenses than was imposed by the Panel in resolving the parties’ previous dispute.
2. The Union’s Position
The Union proposes that the Employer "pay a maximum of $28,000 toward the Union’s travel and per diem expenses in connection with successor agreement negotiations." This would require the Union to pay approximately 30 percent of an estimated $40,004 in travel-related costs.(7) The Union’s share represents "a significant amount" considering that the Union, "a small unaffiliated organization," must also pay for the following items: $12,000 for 12 days of mediation; 50 percent of the facilitator’s charges for the two Washington, D.C., sessions; and costs associated with any Panel impasse procedures, additional bargaining sessions, preparation meetings (several thousand has already been spent on this item), and implementation briefings. In this regard, "any argument by the Agency that it is paying a large percentage of the Union’s costs is simply not accurate as it fails to take into account the Union’s actual expenses." Requiring the Union to pay a larger share could affect its ability to engage in collective bargaining and other representational activities.
The Union’s proposal is $2,000 less than the $30,000 cap the Panel adopted in NLRB and NLRBU 7 years ago. The difference takes into account both that: (1) in 1993, travel monies were to cover five Union negotiators; and (2) since 1993, as reflected in General Services Administration’s travel allowances, hotel and incidental travel costs have increased by 25 percent. Furthermore, the Employer’s ability to cover such costs has improved as "this year’s budget is better than it has been in years." Regarding extra costs related to the second location, the Employer was initially opposed and offered to pay $35,000 if the Union would have agreed to meet only in Washington, D.C. Conducting some sessions in Cincinnati, however, is justified because all but six bargaining-unit employees work at field offices outside of Washington, D.C. In response to the Employer’s agreement to bargain in Cincinnati during two of the four sessions, the Union deducted $7,000 from the offer the Employer made when it proposed to conduct negotiations only in Washington, D.C. This was the amount the Employer estimated that traveling to Cincinnati would add to the overall cost of the negotiations.(8) The Union’s final offer of $28,000, therefore, is essentially equivalent to what the Employer has already demonstrated it is willing to pay.
After carefully considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude, on balance, that the Union’s proposal provides the better basis for resolving the dispute. In these circumstances, $28,000, which serves as a cap on the Employer’s obligation to cover the Union’s travel and per diem expenses, represents a reasonable share. In our view, the Employer’s proposal does not sufficiently consider the increase in travel costs since the parties’ previous negotiations, nor does the Employer’s estimate of expenses include extra travel costs, such as taxi cab fares, noted by the Union. Moreover, we are not persuaded, as the Employer contends, that the additional $8,000 it would be required to pay effectively eliminates the Union’s incentive to complete bargaining expeditiously. For example, under their agreed to four-round schedule, if the parties were to reach a voluntary settlement by the end of the third round, the Union would be spared nearly all travel expenses associated with the final round in Washington, D.C. If mediation and/or impasse proceedings become necessary, the Union could incur substantial additional costs. Such potential developments should provide both parties with financial incentives to conclude bargaining as quickly as possible. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Union’s proposal.
Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Ma