DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AND FEDERAL DETENTION CENTER OAKDALE, LOUISIANA and LOCALS 1007 AND 3957, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS

FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION

AND FEDERAL DETENTION CENTER

OAKDALE, LOUISIANA

 

 

 

 

 

Case Nos. 01 FSIP 22

and 01 FSIP 51

 

and

LOCALS 1007 AND 3957, AMERICAN

FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES,

AFL-CIO

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Locals 1007 and 3957, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Unions), filed separate requests for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider negotiation impasses under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between them and the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) and Federal Detention Center (FDC), Oakdale, Louisiana (Employer).

    Following investigations of the impasses, involving an identical issue arising from bargaining over local supplemental agreements, the cases were consolidated, and the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference between a Panel representative and the parties. If no settlement was reached, the representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and his 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, the undersigned conducted an informal conference with the parties on March 7, 2001, at the FCI in Oakdale, Louisiana, but they were unable to resolve the issue in dispute. At the conclusion of the informal conference, the parties presented their final offers and supporting evidence and arguments. The undersigned has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure. The FCI houses convicted felons who are U.S. citizens, while the FDC houses convicted felons who are illegal aliens. Local 1007 represents approximately 230 employees at the FDC, and Local 3957 represents approximately 225 at the FCI. Unit employees hold positions, among other things, as correctional officers, maintenance workers, medical services personnel, accountants, food services personnel, and recreation and laundry workers. They range in grade from GS-5 to -11. The parties’ master collective bargaining agreement was due to expire on March 8, 2001, but its terms continue in effect until negotiations over a successor agreement are completed.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether correctional officers at the FCI and FDC should be required to wear the dress uniform when escorting inmates off-site.(1)

    1. The Union’s Position

    The Unions propose that "posts designated as requiring the dress uniform will be the Front Entrance and Visiting Room." The FDC has never had a policy of requiring correctional officers to wear the dress uniform when escorting inmates in public, or when assigned to duty at the front entrance or the visiting room. Although the FCI implemented such a policy as part of an Institution Supplement in November 1999, it has never been enforced. Because the Unions are offering to increase the number of posts where the dress uniform is required at the FDC, and the FCI never enforces the policy currently in its Institution Supplement, their position is more reasonable than the Employer’s.

    Wearing the blazer on top of the bulletproof vest is uncomfortably hot, given the climactic conditions most of the year in Oakdale. It also could hinder officers’ ability to draw their weapons. Moreover, the blazer is difficult to fit over the bulletproof vest and does not conceal the holster and sidearm effectively. Thus, contrary to the Employer’s belief, requiring escort officers to wear the dress uniform would not project a more professional image. Nor has the Employer demonstrated that a more professional image needs to be projected. In this regard, most correctional officers live in the community and are well-known to local residents. Finally, the Unions’ proposal is identical to what has recently been agreed to by the parties at the FCI at Bastrop, Texas.

    b. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer’s proposal is that "due to their contact with the public, the following posts are designated as requiring the wearing of the dress uniform: Front Entrance Officers, Visiting Room Officers, and the Outside Escort Officers." The public’s initial impression of the BOP is formed largely through its contact with the correctional officers who escort inmates around the local community, for example, to area hospitals. By requiring them to wear the dress uniform they would project a more professional appearance to the public, and make the bulletproof vest and firearm less conspicuous. Considering that there are between 30 to 35 posts of duty at the FCI and FDC, requiring the correctional officers assigned to the 3 posts that involve direct contact with the public to have this uniform as their standard dress is not too much to ask. It is also reasonable for management to expect correctional officers at those three posts of duty to wear dress uniforms because a full clothing allowance is provided each year for their purchase. Finally, correctional officers bid for posts on a quarterly basis. Therefore, those who do not wish to wear dress uniforms can avoid having to do so by not bidding on posts that require them. Similarly, escort officers who sign up for overtime will be aware in advance that this is a condition of their assignment.

CONCLUSIONS

    After carefully considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude that the Unions’ proposal provides the better basis for resolving the dispute. Preliminarily, we note that the FDC has never had a practice of requiring escort officers to wear the dress uniform, and that while the FCI has a written policy to that effect, the Employer concedes that it is not enforced. Therefore, the Employer essentially is attempting to change the current practice at both facilities. Our review of the record, however, persuades us that it has not sufficiently demonstrated the need to do so. In this regard, the Employer can point to no complaints from the public alleging that the escort officers present a non-professional appearance. Furthermore, because the blazers are uncomfortable to wear in the climate of Louisiana, and do not fit very well over the bulletproof vest or sidearm, there appears to be a real question as to whether the adoption of the Employer’s proposal would further its aim of projecting a more professional appearance. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Unions 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 the parties’ failure to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings