GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION WASHINGTON, D.C. and COUNCIL OF GSA LOCALS, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES FEDERAL DISTRICT 1, IAM & AW AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
WASHINGTON, D.C.

and

COUNCIL OF GSA LOCALS, NATIONAL
  FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
  FEDERAL DISTRICT 1, IAM & AW
  AFL-CIO

Case No. 02 FSIP 94

DECISION AND ORDER

    The General Services Administration (GSA), Washington, D.C., (Employer) 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 Council of GSA Locals, National Federation of Federal Employees, Federal District 1, IAM & AW, AFL-CIO (Union).

    Following investigation of the parties’ request for assistance in this case, which arose from negotiations over a new performance awards program, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference with Member John G. Cruz. The parties were advised that if no settlement was reached, Member Cruz would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and his recommendation for resolving the impasse.(1)

The parties were also advised that after considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, which could include the issuance of a binding decision.

    Pursuant to this procedural determination, Member Cruz met with the parties on September 10, 2002, at the Panel’s office in Washington, D.C. At the close of the proceeding, the parties remained at impasse over a number of issues pertaining to the awards program, and were permitted to submit final offers, initial statements, and rebuttals in support of their positions.(2) Member Cruz has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.(3)

BACKGROUND

    The mission of the GSA is to assist Federal agencies to better serve the public by offering, at best value, superior work places, expert solutions, and acquisition services. The component of GSA involved in this dispute is the Federal Supply Service (FSS). FSS’s mission is to provide leadership, through guiding principles and operating programs, which assures the Federal Government’s requirements for personal property and administrative services are efficiently met at the least cost to the taxpayer. The Union represents approximately 660 FSS employees who are part of a nationwide consolidated bargaining unit of about 3,100. They occupy positions as specialists in the following areas: contracts, transportation, property, marketing, procurement, property disposal, and budget, at grades GS-3 through -14. The parties’ national collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired in August 2000; negotiations over a successor CBA are in progress.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over the following issues: (1) how and to whom the total awards pool should be allocated by the Employer; (2) whether the portion of the pool to be designated by the Employer for performance-based awards should be distributed to unit employees equally (i.e., regardless of grade), or as equal percentages of salary; (3) whether the awards pool should be increased by the Employer if overall GSA revenue increases;(4) (4) whether the Employer should guarantee that awards pool funding be available if all work groups meet or exceed their performance goals; and (5) whether the awards program should be negotiable annually at the request of either party.

1. The Employer’s Position

    With respect to how the awards pool should be divided, the Employer proposes that 60 percent be allocated for performance-based awards, and 40 percent be available for use under existing GSA awards programs, such as the "Fast Track Awards System." Concerning the performance-based aspect of their dispute, the Employer proposes that this portion of the awards pool be divided into three categories, i.e., 70 percent for achieving targets, 10 percent for exceeding targets, and 20 percent for overall FSS performance. Awards for the first two categories would be distributed as equal percentages of salary, and as equal dollar amounts for the last category. In addition, the Employer opposes the Union’s proposals that their awards program agreement contain wording guaranteeing that funding would be available if all work groups meet or exceed their performance goals, and that the awards program be renegotiated annually.

    Its proposed awards program should be adopted because, unlike the Union’s plan, it is based on sound business and compensation practices. In this regard, FSS managers developed the awards framework after "working with the Logistics Management Institute and an expert in the field of employee compensation." It is based on "documented studies on how to compensate and award employees effectively." In addition, adoption of the plan would ensure consistency throughout FSS. In this regard, approximately 75 percent of FSS is already operating under this awards plan.

    Adoption of the Union’s plan, by contrast, would mean "substantially disparate treatment for employees in the Central Office, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes Regions" where employees are represented by more than one union. Furthermore, the Union’s proposal to increase the awards pool if FSS revenue exceeds the budgeted amount for the FY by 5 percent or more should be rejected because revenue increases may or may not be due to specific actions by employees. It also would diminish the predictability and consistency of the budgeting process required for the program’s success. Moreover, augmentation of the awards budget is not possible because under existing law management has no authority to retain excess earnings for the payment of salaries or performance awards. Finally, annual negotiations are unnecessary because the Employer does not plan to make yearly changes to the awards program.

2. The Union’s Position

    In the matters that remain at impasse, the Union essentially proposes that management allocate 80 percent of the awards pool for performance-based awards, and 20 percent for use under existing GSA awards programs. Performance-based awards would "be given to all FSS associates equally, regardless of grade." If overall revenue exceeds the budgeted amount for the FY year by 5 percent or more, bonuses would "be increased by an additional amount proportional to that increase." Management would be required to guarantee that money is available to fund the awards program if "all FSS work groups meet or exceed their performance goals," and the award program would be subject to negotiations every year.

    The Union argues that fairness can be achieved by allotting 80 percent of the awards pool for the more structured, performance-based awards, and 20 percent for discretionary awards, and that for the awards program to have any credibility, the Employer should guarantee that money will be available for awards distribution. Finally, annual negotiations would ensure that necessary changes to the program are addressed in a timely manner.

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude that the Employer’s final offer would provide the more reasonable resolution of their impasse. Among other things, we are persuaded that the Employer’s proposed awards program was carefully conceived based on previously-tested business practices and, when implemented, should provide appropriate incentives to enhance employee performance. Nor is the position of the Union supported by sufficient evidence that the intended result of motivating improvements in performance would be achieved, particularly its insistence that all employees be granted equal award amounts, regardless of experience or grade level. In our view, the new awards plan the Employer proposes merits testing to determine whether the incentives it provides result in demonstrable increases in productivity. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s final offer.

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 Employer’s final offer.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky
Executive Director

November 8, 2002
Washington, D.C.

1. During the informal conference, both parties submitted documents in support of their particular awards plans. These documents, as well as other documents of the parties that were timely and properly filed, were included as part of the record and were considered by Member Cruz in fashioning his recommendation to the Panel.

2. With Member Cruz’ assistance during the informal conference, the parties were able to resolve issues concerning the type of awards information that the Employer will provide the Union, employee eligibility for the awards program, and details of an initial face-to-face meeting for the parties to discuss aspects of the awards program. In addition, the parties’ final offers were identical as to the percentage of total salaries to be allocated for FY 2002, how the awards pool will be calculated for FY 2003, and the sliding scale to be applied if targets are met under the performance-based portion of the program.

3. On September 30, 2002, the Employer requested that the Panel disregard the Union’s supporting statement because it did not serve a copy to the Employer on September 18, 2002, as instructed by Member Cruz, and failed to follow 5 C.F.R. § 2471.5(b)(2) of the Panel’s regulations requiring a party to serve the opposing party with a copy of any document sent to the Panel, thus depriving the Employer of any opportunity to review the Union’s statement and to respond thereto. After carefully reviewing the circumstances attending the Union’s failure to serve the Employer, the Panel granted the Employer’s request. Accordingly, the Union’s documents titled “GSA Council of Locals, Best and Final Offer, [FSS], Performance Awards System” and “Rebuttal of Agency’s Final Position,” were not considered by the Panel in rendering its decisi