FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION WASHINGTON, D.C. and NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION

WASHINGTON, D.C.

and

 

NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

 

Case No. 00 FSIP 121

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Washington, D.C. (Employer or FDIC) 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 Treasury Employees Union (Union or NTEU).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, arising from negotiations over the size of workstations for Corporate Grade (CG) 11 employees,(1) the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties. After considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions and rebuttal statements were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to ensure the safety and soundness of state-chartered non-member banks. The Union represents employees in three separate bargaining units: 1,484 headquarters employees; 2,364 employees from the 8 regions; and 904 liquidation employees located in Dallas, Texas. Bargaining-unit employees work in such positions as bank and compliance examiner, clerk, lawyer, paralegal, secretary, garage worker, capital market specialist, claims specialist, investigation specialist, and asset specialist at grades CG-5 through -15. The master collective bargaining agreements (MCBA) for regional and field office employees are due to expire in January 2002. The MCBA for the liquidation office was due to expire in 1996, but continues in effect by mutual agreement.

    The bargaining in this case occurred as a result of the FDIC’s decision to update its Facilities Design Guide, in anticipation of major reductions in leased space at the agency. The parties have agreed on workstation sizes for employees at all grades but CG-11. The guideline for employees at CG-5 and lower is 48 square feet; at CG-6 to -8, 64 square feet; at CG-9, 80 square feet; and at CG-12, 150 square feet.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over the size of workstations for non-supervisory CG-11 employees in headquarters and the regional offices.(2)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1.  The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes that the revised workstation guideline for non-supervisory CG-11 employees located at headquarters and in the regional offices should be the same as for CG-9 workstations, 80 square feet. While it is true that the current Facilities Design Guide provides a range between 80 to 100 square feet for CG-9 and CG-11, "an 80 square foot workstation would be an increase in space for over 75 percent of the CG-11s currently in workstations." More importantly, "in most cases" 80 square feet "provides a comfortable and efficient space" for performing CG-11 work. By contrast, a 96-square-foot workstation, as proposed by the Union, generally would provide a work surface space increase of only 18 inches. Although the majority of CG-11 employees are currently in private offices with an average space of approximately 125 square feet, this reflects the existence of spare private offices due to the loss of 16,000 positions since 1992. As new leases are negotiated, spare private offices will be eliminated and space will more closely match workforce needs.

    Eighty-square-foot workstations would constitute an estimated savings over 10 years of $725,760, attributable to square footage reductions under new leases. Furthermore, granting both CG-9 and CG-11 employees the same size workstations is more economical because management would avoid having to move CG-9 employees to larger workstations when they receive career-ladder promotions. Additionally, 80-square-foot workstations would mean that the Employer would have fewer workstation sizes to arrange within floor plans, while 96-square-foot workstations "would make space planning even more cumbersome and would result in unusable and wasted space."

2.  The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes that CG-11 employees at the Employer’s headquarters and regional offices should be allocated at least 96 square feet of office space. The Employer’s proposal "represents a 50-percent reduction in the space allocated to the average CG-11 employee," while the Union’s proposal is 4 square feet less than the maximum range of 80 to 100 square feet provided in the 1998 FDIC Facilities Design Guide. Presumably, only 2 years ago the Employer believed that up to 100 square feet was an appropriate guideline for space allocation to CG-11 employees. In addition, 96 square-foot workstations would provide employees with more comfort and status. Moreover, CG-11 jobs generally may require greater privacy and storage room. In this regard, "[h]igher graded employees are much more likely to need to have meetings or other substantive discussions with other employees in performing their jobs . . . and the extra workstation space would, for example, provide room for another chair."

    Distinguishing between the space provided for CG-9 and CG-11 employees would provide an incentive to employees to seek higher-level work. Additionally, it would be more appropriate for CG-11 work space to approximate CG-12 office space, which the parties already have agreed will be 150 square feet, rather than CG-7 workstation size, which is 64 square feet. As for the Employer’s cost argument, an additional $72,576 per year for an extra 16 square feet per CG-11 employee is relatively modest and, therefore, a less important consideration than whether space is adequate for performing CG-11 work. The additional cost, projected by the Employer under the Union’s proposal, would mean an annual increase in the Employer’s overall annual budget of only .004 percent.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having carefully reviewed the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we are persuaded that, on balance, the Union’s proposal provides the better resolution to their dispute. Preliminarily, we note that neither party has made a compelling case for adopting its position. For example, the savings projected by the Employer appear speculative, particularly given that the parties agree that the guidelines are to be applied flexibly. Moreover, because neither party has effectively addressed the need for workspace in relation to the actual functions CG-11s perform, we are equally skeptical of the Union’s contention that an additional 16 square feet of workspace "would lead to greater productivity." Nevertheless, our primary reasons for narrowly favoring the Union’s proposal are as follows. First, it is uncontested that applying a guideline of a maximum of 80 square feet of space for CG-11 employees would be a major reduction from the amount most of them currently enjoy. While recognizing that this situation did not occur by design, we believe that changing from large private offices to much smaller 80-square-foot workstations may have a negative effect on morale. Secondly, since the parties have already agreed that CG-12 employees should receive an allocation of 150 square feet, the difference in workspace between CG-11s and 12s would be 70 square feet. In our view, the Employer has not adequately explained why CG-12s should have workspace almost twice the size of CG-11s. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Union’s proposal.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of