DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE McGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE McGUIRE AFB, NEW JERSEY and LOCAL 1778, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

McGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE

McGUIRE AFB, NEW JERSEY

 

 

 

 

 

Case No. 01 FSIP 38

and

LOCAL 1778, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 1778, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union or AFGE) filed a request for assistance with the 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 Department of the Air Force, McGuire Air Force Base, McGuire AFB, New Jersey (Employer).(1)

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, arising from negotiations over the Employer’s decision to replace a 4/10 compressed work schedule (CWS) with a 5-4/9 CWS,(2) the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved through an informal conference by telephone with a Panel representative. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the representative would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and her recommendations 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, Chief Legal Advisor Donna M. DiTullio conducted a teleconference with representatives of the parties on February 23, 2001; the parties, however, were unable to resolve the matter. Ms. DiTullio has reported to the Panel regarding the parties’ final offers on the issue, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer, which is part of the Air Mobility Command, refuels and flies cargo planes and trains pilots. The Union represents a bargaining unit consisting of approximately 690 employees. The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which was to have expired in 1997, has been extended until a successor is negotiated. Bargaining over a new agreement is underway. Pursuant to the current CBA, which was implemented in 1994, squadron commanders are to negotiate with the Union over alternative work schedules. For at least the past 7 years, civilian employees in ISO had been working under a 4/10 CWS while the military personnel worked a standard schedule consisting of 8 hours per day, 5 days a week. In April 2000, the Employer notified the Union that it wanted to replace the 4/10 CWS with a work schedule that would permit both civilian an military personnel in ISO to have the same work hours.

    The dispute herein concerns seven employees who work in Isochronal Inspection Operations (ISO), and hold positions as aircraft mechanics. These employees, along with their military counterparts, are responsible for dismantling, inspecting, and reassembling aircraft that have been taken off flight status; the current cycle for this inspection process is 21 days. Bargaining-unit employees work side-by-side with military personnel who typically are lower-graded airmen. Initially, the Employer proposed that unit employees work the same standard 8-hour tour of duty as their military counterparts. Eventually, however, the Employer modified its position and, instead, proposed that the civilians work a 5-4/9 CWS which the Employer would also implement for the military members of ISO. On November 3, 2000, during a mediation session with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the parties tentatively agreed, subject to employee approval, to test a 5-4/9 CWS as a replacement for the 4/10 CWS. The unit employees failed to ratify the new 5-4/9 CWS, however. Thereafter, on November 19, 2000, the Employer implemented a 5-4/9 CWS for both bargaining-unit employees and military personnel who work in ISO.(3) The schedule has remained in effect since that time.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether unit employees in ISO should return to a 4/10 CWS or continue on the current 5-4/9 schedule that was implemented in November 2000.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    In essence, the Employer proposes that employees remain on the current 5-4/9 CWS which requires them to have workhours from 7 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., a 45-minute lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and two 15-minute rest periods starting at 9:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., respectively. The 8-hour day would continue to be scheduled on the same day of the week opposite the employee’s regular day off (RDO). On the 8-hour workday, employees would work from 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. with lunch and rest periods to remain the same as other workdays. Employee attendance would continue to be monitored through roll calls at the start and end of each workday. Employees who are not present for roll call would report their arrival and departure times to their supervisor. Employees who are eligible may request compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay for any overtime worked. Requests from employees who wish to be excused from working under the 5-4/9 schedule due to hardship would be submitted in writing to the Employer, who would have sole discretion to determine whether an exemption should be approved.

    The Panel should adopt its proposal for a 5-4/9 CWS because it is nearly the same as what the Union tentatively agreed to during mediation, except it no longer provides for a trial period or employee ratification. The proposal would enable civilians and military personnel to have the same work hours and still provide a CWS benefit to employees--a "win-win" situation for both parties. The diminishing number of military personnel assigned to ISO, from 70 in 1994, to 15 in 2000, has caused management to examine how it may "work better and smarter" to carry out mission requirements; placing all personnel in ISO on the same 5-4/9 schedule likely would facilitate this objective. In this regard, having civilians and military personnel on the same schedule would promote the continuity of work and provide certain efficiencies for the Employer such as facilitating on-the-job training by bargaining-unit employees for military airmen who, typically, are less experienced than their civilian counterparts, and eliminate the need to have two separate roll calls and safety briefings each day for civilians and military.

    Since implementing the 5-4/9 CWS on November 19, 2000, statistics show that there has been a "dramatic improvement in the number of first flight discrepancies."(4) In this regard, during the period beginning December 1999 through November 18, 2000, when bargaining-unit employees were on a 4/10 CWS and active duty military personnel were working 8-hour days, 8 of the 12 aircraft inspected had maintenance "events" during test flights that should have been detected in ISO. During the period from November 19, 2000, through February 17, 2001, however, when bargaining-unit employees and military personnel were working under the same 5-4/9 CWS, the number of first flight discrepancies was reduced to one out of the four aircraft inspected. While the Employer does not have any empirical proof that the lower number of first flight discrepancies is due to all ISO personnel having the same work schedule, it believes that there is some correlation. In addition, it is not feasible for the Employer to place military personnel on the same 4/10 CWS which the Union proposes for bargaining-unit employees because that schedule would interfere with the ability of military personnel to "surge."(5) While surging is not a routine experience, it is happening with greater frequency. Finally, there is no need to "burden" military personnel with a 4/10 CWS merely to accommodate civilians.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union basically proposes that of the seven employees assigned to ISO, six work a 4/10 CWS, starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., with two employees off on Mondays, two off on Wednesdays, and two off on Fridays; the lunch break would be from 11 to 11:30 a.m.; and employees would take two 15-minute rest breaks at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and one 7-minute break at 3:30 p.m. One employee would be permitted to work a flexible schedule, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the lunch break and two 15-minute rest breaks would be at the same times as breaks for employees working under a 4/10 CWS. Credit hours could be earned, with supervisory approval, only by employees who are not on a compressed schedule. All employees would be able to request compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay, when overtime has been worked. Employees would account for their time by using sign in/out sheets; in the alternative, the ISO Flight Chief could be assigned to the 4/10 CWS to monitor time and attendance. Employees who would suffer a personal hardship by working under a CWS either would be reassigned or excused from working a compressed schedule. In exercising its authority to approve hardship exemption requests, the Employer would take into consideration the needs of employees, particularly those responsible for caring for dependent children, elderly or disabled family members.

    Employees should be permitted to return to a 4/10 CWS because management has not been able to demonstrate that there was a need to change from that schedule. Employees refused to ratify a tentative agreement reached by the parties’ representatives concerning the implementation of a 5-4/9 CWS because they were not persuaded that any compelling reason existed for them to give up having 1 day off each week under a 4/10 CWS. The Employer has acknowledged that it did not have any hard evidence to show that productivity suffered during the 7-plus years a 4/10 CWS had been in place. Moreover, the Employer cannot conclusively attribute the recent reduction in the number of first flight discrepancies to employees’ new 5-4/9 CWS; first flight discrepancies are more likely due to the age of the aircraft, the experience level of the mechanics working on the aircraft, and/or "problems" created by other shops. The benefits which management alleges are gained by having unit employees and military personnel work the same schedule are relatively minor and do not in any way contribute to increased productivity or better customer service. Furthermore, the Employer’s claim that bargaining-unit employees and military personnel in ISO should be on the same work schedule to facilitate civilians providing on-the-job training to the military is overstated. Typically, civilians and military personnel only work together when there is a "two-person job" and not solely for the purpose of providing on-the-job training.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having carefully considered the entire record in this case, including the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we are persuaded that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the Union’s proposal.(6) In our view, the Employer has not sufficiently supported its decision to replace the 4/10 CWS which had been the status quo for at least 7 years. In this regard, the record does not contain any empirical evidence that productivity or customer service had been declining while employees were working a 4-day workweek. Nor has the Employer demonstrated that there is any real connection between the lower numbers of first flight discrepancies and the recent implementation of the 5-4/9 CWS. The statistics compiled by the Employer are based on events which occurred over a relatively short period of time, from November 19, 2000, to February 17, 2001, and may not reflect a continuing trend. In the absence of stronger evidence, we cannot justify the elimination of a benefit enjoyed by employees for many years. Furthermore, a number of the efficiencies the Employer alleges to have been gained by having employees work the same schedule as military personnel appear to involve matters of administrative convenience insufficient to outweigh the more significant interests of employees. We note, however, that if the agency head determines that as a result of our order the 4/10 CWS is causing an adverse agency impact, as defined under the Act, the Employer may, at any time, seek its termination by meeting the requirements specified therein.(7)

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted pursuant to 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 Union’s proposal.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

April 2, 2001

Washington, D.C.

1. Initially, the Union filed its request for Panel assistance under the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act (Act); however, when it became apparent during the initial investigation of the case that the Employer had not alleged that the Union’s proposal would result in an adverse agency impact, as defined by 5 U.S.C. § 6131(b) of the Act, the Union amended its filing and requested that the Panel consider the matter as a negotiation impasse under the Statute. The Panel then asserted jurisdiction under the Statute.

2. Under a 4/10 CWS, during a biweekly pay period consisting of 80 hours, each week employees work 10 hours a day for 4 days and receive 1 day off. Under a 5-4/9 CWS, during a biweekly pay period consisting of 80 hours, employees work 9 hours a day for 8 days, 8 hours for 1 day, and receive 1 day off.

3. The Employer contends that after employees failed to ratify the parties’ tentative agreement for a 5-4/9 CWS, the Union, after a reasonable period of time, did not request the assistance of the Panel. Therefore, absent notice from the Union of its intent to submit the matter to the Panel for resolution, the Employer implemented a 5-4/9 CWS on November 19, 2000. The Union, in fact, did not submit its request for Panel assistance until December 21, 2000.

4. “First flight discrepancies” are events which cause an aircraft to be returned to ISO for further maintenance after the aircraft had undergone maintenance inspection and a test flight.

5. According to the Employer, under military safety regulations affecting maintenance personnel, AMCI 21-101, Sect. 1.8.3.1 (1 September 1999), a normal maintenance shift is between 8-12 hours, with a maximum duty period of 16 hours permitted infrequently and only when extraordinary circumstances/mission requirements exist. If the military members of ISO were to work 10-hour days under a 4/10 CWS, their ability to “surge” or work additional hours beyond 12, to which they are normally limited, would be affected. Thus, the Employer may be limited in the number of “surge” (overtime) hours it could assign military personnel.

6.