DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEFENSE COMMISSARY AGENCY FORT BLISS, HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, AND WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE COMMISSARIES PETERSON AFB, COLORADO and LOCAL R14-23, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
DEFENSE COMMISSARY AGENCY
FORT BLISS, HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE
  BASE, AND WHITE SANDS MISSILE
  RANGE COMMISSARIES
PETERSON AFB, COLORADO

and

LOCAL R14-23, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU,
AFL-CIO

Case No. 02 FSIP 35

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local R14-23, National Association of Government Employees, SEIU, AFL-CIO (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 Defense, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), and White Sands Missile Range Commissaries, Peterson AFB, Colorado (Employer).

        Following investigation of the Union’s request for assistance in the case, which arose from negotiations over a reduction in force (RIF), the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference with Panel Member Joseph C. Whitaker. The parties were advised that if no settlement was reached, Member Whitaker would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and his recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Pursuant to this procedural determination, Member Whitaker met with the parties on July 9 and 10, 2002, at Fort Bliss, Texas. During the procedure, the parties were unable to resolve voluntarily only 1 of the 28 separate issues originally contained in the request for assistance. The parties subsequently were permitted to submit brief statements in support of the final offers they provided at the conclusion of the informal conference on the matter that remained at impasse. Member Whitaker has reported to the Panel and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer is responsible for providing an efficient and effective worldwide system of commissaries for selling groceries and household supplies at low, practical prices to members of the military service, their families, and other authorized patrons. As it concerns this dispute, the Employer operates three commissaries located at Fort Bliss, Texas; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Holloman AFB, New Mexico.(1) Local R14-23 represents approximately 225 bargaining-unit employees who work at the three locations in such positions as sales store checker, sales store worker, accounting technician, quality assurance evaluator, and meat cutter.(2) At the National level, the parties executed a master collective bargaining agreement (MCBA) in March 1996 that was to have expired in March 1999. Since that time, it has been renewed for 1-year periods. The parties have a local supplemental agreement, which runs concurrently with the MCBA.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties essentially disagree over whether the Employer should be required to take certain actions designed to protect the jobs of more senior bargaining-unit employees before RIF notices are issued.

 

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1.  The Union’s Position

         The Union proposes the following wording:

At least 10 days prior to issuance of RIF notices bargaining unit employees with the lowest retention standing for their competitive level in the bargaining unit will be reassigned to the bargaining unit location resulting in the most severe RIF actions, reassigning higher retention standing employees to other unit locations that will be least affected by the RIF. Once the RIF is completed, any "displaced" employee will be given an opportunity to transfer back to their original store, by retention standing, as vacancies become available.

Under the proposal, more unit employees with higher retention standing would be protected from separation or other adverse consequences of the RIF, and employees with lower retention standing would suffer "the most severe adverse actions (separation, downgrade, and/or change from full-time to part-time employment)." Without its adoption, the Employer’s determination, pursuant to 5 C.F.R. § 351.402, that each commissary constitutes a separate competitive area, will adversely affect more senior employees, who overall have higher retention standings, by precluding them from competing within the same competitive level against more junior employees working at other stores, who have lower retention standings. Because the 16 employees at White Sands Missile Range may only compete for the limited positions at their store, the senior-most employees there will lose their jobs or suffer downgrades, while many employees with much less seniority working at the Fort Bliss and Holloman AFB commissaries will be unaffected by the RIF. Employees with over 20 years "of faithful and dedicated service to the Government should have some meaning and value to the Government" and "should not be discarded into a non-existent job market."

    The Employer’s determination that each of the commissaries should have its own competitive area is at o