DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE TYNDALL AFB, FLORIDA and LOCAL 3240, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE
TYNDALL AFB, FLORIDA

and

LOCAL 3240, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 02 FSIP 197

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3240, American Federation of Government Employees, 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 the Air Force, Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Tyndall AFB, Florida (Employer).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved through an informal conference by telephone with a Panel representative. The parties were informed that if no settlement was reached during the informal conference, the Panel representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and her recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering the information, the Panel would then take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the matter, which could include the issuance of a Decision and Order. The parties were directed to submit statements of position prior to the informal conference.

    In accordance with the Panel’s determination, on February 11, 2003, Panel Representative (Labor Relations Specialist) June M. Marshall conducted an informal conference by telephone with the parties; however, they were unable to resolve their disputes voluntarily. Ms. Marshall has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record, including the parties’ pre-conference and brief post-conference statements of position.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to support training for F-15 pilots and other battle managers. It also provides goods and services for military personnel and their dependents, as well as morale, recreation, and welfare programs and activities. The Union represents approximately 250 nonappropriated fund (NAF) employees who typically work as recreational aides, child development specialists, housekeepers, warehouse workers, plumbers, carpenters, painters, electricians, mechanics, and motor vehicle operators, at grades NA-1 through -III (crafts and trades), pay bands NF-I through -II (administrative), NF-III through -IV (lead support), and pay bands CC-I through -III (child development). The parties’ Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was due to expire in February 2002; however, the parties extended the agreement for another 3 years in accordance with a contractual rollover provision.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over: (1) wage benefits for NF-I through -II employees, and (2) the number of official time hours the Employer would allocate for Union office coverage.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

I.  Wage Benefits

    a. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes wage increases of 1.98 percent for NF-I employees, and 3.69 percent for NF-II employees, retroactive to the beginning of fiscal year (FY) 2002; and 3.37 percent for NF-I employees and 5.36 percent for NF-II employees, retroactive to the beginning of FY 2003. For future years, the Union proposes NF-I and -II employees receive "the maximum amount of no cap percentage[s]" applied to administrative service (AS) and patron service (PS) pay schedules, as determined by the DOD Wage Fixing Authority Survey (WFAS).(1)

    Applying the AS and PS uncapped wage percent increases is appropriate because NF pay bands were originally derived from AS/PS wage schedules. Furthermore, the proposed wage increases for NF-I and II employees are warranted because "[p]rivate and [p]ublic sector employees receive higher wages with the same job [duties] as the NAF employees." A review of the pay scales for NF employees in similar positions who work in the surrounding counties (Escambia, Florida; Montgomery, Alabama; Clayton, Fulton, and Cobb, Georgia), support the proposed increases because employees in those areas earn higher wages than employees performing the same work at Tyndall. Thus, the NF wage increases are necessary to bring employee pay schedules in line with private and public sector wages.

    In addition, the Employer can afford the proposed wage increases because it had sufficient funds in FY 2002 to distribute about $40,000 in performance awards to bargaining-unit and non-bargaining-unit employees, as well as to provide an unspecified "donation" to the Army and Air Force Exchange, which had a nationwide balance of $3,096,343. Since funds are available from other sources, the Employer should be able to pay the proposed increases without the need to increase prices, conduct reductions in force, or delay needed repairs.

    b. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes maintaining the status quo, i.e., that NF pay bands should continue to be paid in accordance with wage schedules established by DOD. In this regard, as NF pay bands are increased by DOD (in FY 2002, the NF-I pay band was increased by 5.1 percent and the NF II pay band was increased by 4.9 percent), the Employer applies those increases to NF pay bands at Tyndall AFB. Applying AS and PS wage schedules to NF pay bands, as the Union suggests, should be rejected because "they are entirely different [pay] systems." AS and PS employees’ wage scales have an "impact percentage" imposed, unlike NA pay bands, and include different positions, "particularly at higher levels." In addition, unlike the AS and PS wage system, the NF pay system more accurately reflects the circumstances under which NF employees work: Half of the NAF personnel work as flexible employees with no benefits, permanent schedules, or guaranteed hours; whereas the Department of Labor wage studies include only full-time employees.

    Furthermore, the Union’s proposed increases "would have a significant impact on the operation of these self-supporting activities." Cost of labor increases of $10,000 to $20,000 can mean the difference between a NAF’s financial well- being and catastrophe. For example, in the Outdoor Recreation Activity, "a few thousand dollars less can mean boats cannot be maintained or repaired and replacement equipment cannot be purchased." In order to maintain its customer base, the activity would have to pass on the cost of the employee wage increases to customers which could result in driving even more of them away. This decrease in customer base could then result in a "downward spiral," negatively affecting both the military families who use the facility as well as employees who work there.

CONCLUSION

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties on this issue, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s proposal to resolve the dispute, i.e., employees should continue to be paid in accordance with wages established by the DOD WFAS, which is designed specifically for NF pay bands. In situations where one party proposes to change the status quo, as the Union does here, that party has the initial burden of demonstrating the need for the change. Based on the record presented, we conclude that the Union has not met its burden in this regard. In our view, applying uncapped wages derived from AS and PS pay schedules to NF pay bands would undermine the purpose of pay banding. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increasing NF pay bands in the manner the Union proposes would result in appropriate pay levels for NF employees. The Union’s rationale for applying AS wages to NF-I positions, and PS wages to NF-II positions, appears arbitrary, especially since each NF pay level was created from a combination of both AS and PS wages, i.e., the NF-I pay level replaced AS/PS 1-4, and the NF-II pay level replaced AS/PS 5-8. Finally, the DoD wage data the Union relies on to support the comparability of its position are unpersuasive as they merely reflect actual market conditions in the different geographical locations.

II. Union Office Hours

    a. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes the Employer allocate 100-percent official time for one employee to "man" the Union office. In this regard, a full-time Union position is justified because the amount of time the Employer currently allocates (2-hours-per-day, 2-days-per-week) is insufficient to cover the myriad of Union representational duties: researching and preparing for employee grievances, conducting grievance investigations, attending meetings, addressing EEO appeals, responding to summary judgements, and drafting proposals relating to Employer changes in conditions of employment. Furthermore, the full-time position would cure the problems the Union has experienced when the Employer "refused to grant [] official time" for a Union official to respond to a representational matter. This recently led to the Union official’s being disciplined "without [his or her] knowledge." Adopting the Union’s proposal for a full-time Union position, therefore, would reduce the Employer’s need to make determinations about releasing Union officials from duty to perform representational functions.

    b. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes to allocate official time in the amount of 2-days-per-week, 3-hours-per-day to "man" the Union office. The proposal should be adopted because a test conducted in 1999, during which the Employer allotted the Union 2 hours, 5-days-per-week, did not reveal any changes in the level of Union activity. Once the test period was concluded, the Union failed to provide records or other documentation to support the need to continue that official time schedule; therefore, the Union’s allotment was reduced to 2-days-per-week, 2-hours-per-day. If the Union had provided records showing that there was a need for the amount of official time allotted during the test period, the Employer "would have been glad to consider a proposal for more time." Given that the Union "files very few grievances [and] few employees request official time to go to the union [office] to meet with a steward," its proposed increase "is more than generous."

CONCLUSION

    After carefully reviewing the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the Employer’s proposal to allocate official time at the rate of 3-hours-per-day, 2-days-per-week, to "man" the Union office. In our view, the Union provides little evidence to support the need for a full-time Union position. We note that the Union’s proposal changed dramatically from the one submitted in its request for assistance (originally, 8 hours of official time per week), and appears to have been triggered by the recent incident it refers to in its position statement. While the Union’s concerns about being released to conduct representational functions may be reasons for challenging particular decisions, they do not justify a full-time position at the Union office. The Employer’s proposal, on the other hand, provides the Union with a modest weekly increase of 2 hours, which should improve the Union’s ability to represent bargaining-unit employees. Moreover, this increase would be in addition to the "reasonable time" provided in Article 8, § 1, of the parties’ MOA. Therefore, we shall order the parties to adopt the Employer’s 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 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 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations, hereb