DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS NORTHWESTERN DIVISION PORTLAND, OREGON and UNITED POWER TRADES ORGANIZATION

United States of America

 

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

NORTHWESTERN DIVISION

PORTLAND, OREGON

and

UNITED POWER TRADES ORGANIZATION

Case No. 01 FSIP 48

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    United Power Trades Organization (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 Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division, Portland, Oregon (Employer).

    After investigating the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerned two articles arising from negotiations over a successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA), should be resolved through an informal conference between a Panel representative and the parties.(1) If no settlement was reached, the Panel also determined that it would be limited to selecting between the parties’ final offers on an article-by-article basis. Following the conclusion of the informal conference, the Panel representative was to notify the Panel of the status of the dispute; the notification would include the final offers of the parties and the representative's recommendations for resolving the matter. Following consideration of this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision, consistent with its procedural determination.

    Accordingly, Panel Chair Bonnie Prouty Castrey held an informal conference with the parties on April 6 and 7, 2001, at the Panel’s offices in Washington, D.C., and continued the informal conference by telephone on April 12, 2001. Although the parties reached a complete agreement on one article during the informal conference, three sections of Article 16, Official Time, remained unresolved. In accordance with the Chair’s instructions, the parties submitted their final offers and statements of position; Chair Castrey then reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer operates approximately 20 hydroelectric plants in the northwestern quadrant of the United States; they are located on the Snake, Willamette, and Columbia Rivers. The Employer is also responsible for flood control and other environmental projects. The Union represents 500 to 525 bargaining-unit employees who work in trades and crafts at various hydroelectric plants, and at dams and locks in four states within the Northwestern Division. Bargaining-unit employees occupy positions such as laborer, utility worker, rigger, crane operator, welder, painter, carpenter, power plant operator, mechanic, and electrician; their wages are set through surveys conducted by the Department of Defense Wage Fixing Authority. The parties’ CBA expired in the Spring of 1999, but the parties have agreed that its provisions will continue to be applied until a successor agreement, the subject of this case, can be implemented. In the Spring of 2000, the parties established a partnership.

ISSUES

    The parties disagree over three subsections of Article 16, Official Time: (1) the number of hours of official time to be granted annually to the Union President, Project Representatives, four Vice Presidents, and for annual Union-sponsored training (Section 16.3); (2) whether "on duty travel" may be delegated to the district Union Vice President, another Project Representative, or to a "designee"(2)(Section 16.5); and (3) whether the Union President’s and Vice Presidents’ travel on official time for training purposes should be limited to "incidental same day travel (Section 16.9)."(3)

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes the following: (1) Section 16.3, 600 hours of official time annually for the Union President; a total of 600 hours for Project Representatives, four Vice Presidents, and other Union officers; and on training, although the parties agree to a bank of 600 hours for Union-sponsored training, the Employer essentially proposes that "in the first year of the contract, if official time for such training has already been authorized and taken in that year" under the expired agreement, Union representatives would not be granted additional time for training above a total of 600 hours; (2) Section 16.5, "on-duty travel" is to be granted to the district Union Vice President, or "another Project Representative in that district"; and (3) Section 16.9, official time to travel for training purposes for the Union President, Vice Presidents, and other Union representatives would be limited to "incidental same day travel."

    The expired CBA allocates 425 hours of official time for the Union President. Adding 175 hours, which represents a 41-percent increase in the use of available work hours for representational purposes, should be adequate to meet the President’s needs; partnership and management meetings are not deducted from the President’s bank of hours. Furthermore, the 34 Project Representatives and alternates and 4 Vice Presidents (a Union representative for every 14 bargaining-unit employees), are available to "promote discussion and problem solving [at the local level] where it is most effective." The 150-hour increase in their official time bank gives them more time to assist the Union President. In addition, they are likely to be more prepared for their representational roles since official time for training will now be drawn from a separate bank of 600 hours. If the Union President, who is a member of a small crew, were to use 50 percent or more official time, as the Union proposes, an additional crew member would have to be hired "to meet workload requirements" at a cost of $80,000 for salary and benefits. With respect to official time for training, the bank of 600 hours gives each representative 1½ training days; such time will facilitate their being able to use "same day travel."

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes: (1) Section 16.3, 1,000 hours of official time annually for the Union President; 450 hours for Project Representatives and four Vice Presidents; and 600 hours each year for training (the Union’s proposal is silent regarding whether, in the first year of the new contract, its representatives may draw training hours from both the expired and new agreements if that total exceeds 600 hours); (2) Section 16.5, "on duty travel" may be used by the district Union Vice President, or a "designee"; and (3) Section 16.9, official time to travel for training purposes for Union President and Vice Presidents shall not be limited to "incidental same day travel."(4)

    An increase in the Union President’s annual official time hours to 1,000 is justified because the 450 hours he is allotted under the expired contract is not meeting his actual needs. Regarding his activities, the President participates in mid-term negotiations and meetings with management at the Portland Headquarters office, files final step grievances, attends arbitration hearings, drafts the lead statement on most unfair labor practice charges, and assists Union representatives in their duties. His need for official time will grow under the successor CBA because equal employment opportunity complaints will be subject to the negotiated grievance procedure. The "aging workforce and the entry of a growing number of women and minorities . . . have already raised and will continue to raise new issues and challenges."

    Because the bargaining unit is dispersed over four large states, he requires a great deal of travel time as well. The current President, who is an electrician, "has little or no free time during a typical 4-day, 10 hour per day, work week" to take care of representational matters. By contrast, a former Union President, who worked as a power plant operator, "was able to attend to some of his representational work on quiet time on certain shifts." The current President uses 29 to 36 hours per week on official Union business and has an active grievance-arbitration calendar (41 step-one grievances filed in calendar 2000; 18 taken to step three). In calendar year 2000, the President "was granted 440 hours of official time" and "400 additional hours of official time for representational work not counted against the ‘bank’ of 425 hours"; he was denied a total of "820 hours of official time on 82 different days" during that year. As a result, he substituted some 40 hours of annual leave for the hours that were denied to perform representational functions in addition to using personal time for such purposes on his off and weekend days.

    The proposal is also fair from the perspective that the Union must represent all bargaining-unit employees under its duty of fair representation, but has only a part-time staff, while the Employer has "multiple full time labor relations representatives" to deal with analogous activities. Other agreements, including those covering bargaining units at Fort Carson, Colorado, and Edwards Air Force Base, California, provide 100-percent official time for their Presidents. In previous decisions, the Panel adopted proposals for 40-percent official time for a union president representing employees at a single health care facility and 50 percent for union representatives at Department of Defense depots. On December 1, 1998, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported to Congress that 108 of 763 employees "used 50 percent or more of their official time for union work."(5)

    Since permitting all 41 Union representatives to attend training during two 10-hour days would amount to 820 hours annually, the 600 hours per year is "more than reasonable." Regarding on-duty travel, the expired agreement does not allow such travel "for a Union Vice President acting in lieu of a Project Representative"; permitting delegations in assigning which representative is to travel gives greater flexibility. As to the removal of the "incidental same day travel" restriction on the President and the Vice Presidents, this change from the expired contract makes sense because these representatives must travel "the better part of an entire day" to attend management meetings that are located at the division headquarters in Portland, Oregon, or at the district office in Seattle, Washington. Their travel would be limited to the purposes described in the expired CBA, and would be taken as close to the time of a meeting as possible.(6)

CONCLUSIONS

    Upon careful review of the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the parties should adopt the Union’s proposal to resolve their dispute over Article 16, Official Time. Turning first to the amount of official time for the Union President, we believe that his current activity level and the wide geographic area that he must cover, standing alone, justify an increase in official time. The parties’ previous agreement to expand the grievance procedure to cover equal employment opportunity subjects, and the need for time to prepare for partnership activities, persuades us that the modest increase the Employer proposes is likely to be insufficient. In our view, the increase in the Union’s workload demonstrates that the 1,000 hours proposed by the Union is reasonable to ensure that adequate official time is available to meet representational needs. While the Employer’s proposal would increase both the President’s and Project Representatives’ banks to 600 hours each, it admitted in the informal conference that Project Representatives had not used the 450 hours allotted in the expired CBA. In our opinion, the hours should be allocated where the need is demonstrated. As to delegating on-duty travel to a Vice President or a Project Representative, the Employer has not provided any reasons to support changing the language in the expired CBA and thereby restricting such flexibility. On official time to travel to the site of Union-sponsored training, such trips, taken by Union President and Vice Presidents, may require the better part of a day. Because of this, and the fact that such travel is limited to the purpose specified in the CBA, we find it reasonable to allow these Union officials additional official time for traveling.

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 U.S.C. § 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

 

May 24, 2001

Washington, D.C.

1.The Union withdrew a previous request for Panel assistance following a collaborative, pre-jurisdictional meeting between the parties, a Commissioner from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), and a Panel representative which resulted in the settlement of six articles for the same successor CBA. At that point, the parties worked with a different Commissioner from FMCS, and resolved an additional article.

2.“Designee” is also the term used in Section 16.5 of the expired agreement.

3.The phrase “incidental same day travel,” as the parties use it, refers to travel taken on the same day as the representational activity.

4.The Employer did not discuss the differences between its proposal and the Union’s on the use of “on-duty travel.”

5.OPM Report to the House Committee on Appropriations: Official Time and Services used by Unions Representing Federal Employees.

6.The Union does not comment on the Employer’s proposal to limit t