DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS LITTLE ROCK DISTRICT LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS and LOCAL 2219, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
LITTLE ROCK DISTRICT
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS

and

LOCAL 2219, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO

Case No. 02 FSIP 53

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 2219, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO (Union), and the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District, Little Rock, Arkansas (Employer), filed a joint request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119.

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns the kind of shirts authorized to be worn by lock and dam operators, the last issue to be resolved in local negotiations over a uniform policy, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through single written submissions from the parties. After receiving their submissions, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, which could include the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer provides engineering, construction management, and environmental services in peace and war. The civil works program includes navigation, flood damage reduction, recreation, hydropower, environmental regulation and other missions. The Little Rock District operates the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas Navigation System (MKARNS).(1) The Union represents approximately 300 bargaining-unit employees who work in such positions as budget analyst, program analyst, maintenance mechanic, powerhouse operator, lock and dam operator, boat operator and secretary, and range in grade from GS-5 through -11; WG-5 through -11, WA-11, and WY-9 through -11. The dispute affects approximately 60 to 75 lock and dam operators. The parties executed a 3-year collective bargaining agreement in June 2001, which expires on June 12, 2004.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether the wearing of gray knit shirts by duty lock and dam operators should be authorized in the Little Rock District.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1.  The Employer’s Position

The Employer proposes the following wording:

The duty lock and dam operators are only authorized to wear the duty shirt. The back-up lock and dam operators are authorized to wear either the duty shirt or the knit shirt.

The staff at a lock consists of one-to-three employees: a primary duty lock and dam operator, a back-up operator, and an equipment mechanic leader. After over 30 years of operating locks and dams without them, uniforms were introduced in calendar year 2000 to ensure that employees present a "consistent appearance" and "image of professionalism." Lock and dam operators wear the class B uniform, consisting of a 100 percent cotton, short- or long-sleeve "duty" shirt, and navy pants or jeans.(2) The duty shirt, which presents a more professional image, should be the only shirt authorized for duty lock and dam operators who are "responsible for operating the lock," and providing "instructions to customers." Making uniforms worn by these employees consistent throughout the MKARNS system will ensure that members of the public recognize the operators’ authority at the locks. In this regard, AFGE, which represents half of the duty operators in the Little Rock and Tulsa Districts, has agreed that those operators will wear only the duty shirt. As to the effect of weather conditions, duty shirts "maintain a more professional appearance under more weather conditions than the knit shirt." Because back-up operators and equipment mechanic leaders perform maintenance tasks, they may be "authorized to wear several combinations of the uniform shirt and pants to include the knit shirt."

2.  The Union’s Position

The Union proposes:

That wear of the Class B Duty Knit Shirt be authorized for daily wear in accordance with the National Uniform Guidelines [Guidelines] issued by the National Office of the Employer.

The gray knit shirt is listed in the Guidelines as an article of clothing that may be authorized as part of the Class B Duty Uniform. In this region, where, as clarified in operators’ position descriptions, "work is performed [] mostly outside" and is subject to numerous hazards ("darkness, inclement weather, strong currents, and turbulent water"), the knit shirt is preferable to the duty shirt. The knit shirt "expands the safety margin" for employees at work in "the higher temperature, higher humidity summers of Arkansas." Based on similar climatic conditions, the Uniform Coordinator at the New Orleans District reversed a decision of the previous year, and began providing knit shirts to operators there. The prevalence of knit shirts is underscored by the National Uniform Program Manager, who stated that the knit shirt is "a very popular item and approximately 6,000 have been purchased." The parties’ jointly- conducted survey of 10 Districts confirms that 6 or 7 allow lock operators to wear knit shirts. In addition, the fact that the Guidelines list the knit shirt adequately demonstrates that it conforms with the "National Program Goals for both Image and Identification." The knit shirt also "helps to improve overall employee morale by providing a more comfortable clothing item."

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully reviewed the evidence and arguments presented in this case, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s proposal to resolve the parties’ dispute. In our view, authorizing only the duty shirt for operators would better ensure that members of the public are able to identify the primary duty lock and dam operators in charge of instructing them in navigating the locks throughout the Little Rock District. Moreover, the record does not substantiate the contention that authorizing the knit shirt would contribute to the health and safety of employees.

ORDER

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