DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEFENSE CONTRACT AUDIT AGENCY CENTRAL REGION IRVING, TEXAS and LOCAL 3529, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
DEFENSE CONTRACT AUDIT AGENCY
     CENTRAL REGION
IRVING, TEXAS

and

LOCAL 3529, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF
     GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 03 FSIP 42

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3529, 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 Defense, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Central Region, Irving, Texas (Employer).

    Following investigation of the Union’s request for assistance, which arose from mid-term bargaining over the Employer’s decision to establish a Supervisory Development Program (SDP), the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through single written submissions. The parties were advised that, after considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the dispute, which may include the issuance of a binding decision, but would be limited to selecting between the parties’ final offers, insofar as they are otherwise legal. The parties’ final offers and statements of position were received pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer, 1 of 5 regional offices within DCAA, oversees 25 major field audit offices and suboffices in 9 states. The Union represents the interests of approximately 608 bargaining-unit employees. Employees mainly work as contract auditors at GS-7 through -12. They perform procurement audits for the Department of Defense (DOD) and other Federal agencies under OMB Circular A-73(1) and provide DOD with accounting and financial advisory services to assist in contracting activities. The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired on October 15, 1999, but remains effective until the successor CBA is implemented.(2)

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties essentially disagree over whether SDP candidates should receive administrative leave to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination, including CPA review courses.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes that the following wording be included among the other provisions the parties have agreed to regarding the implementation of the SDP:

In order to enhance the professional development and/or skills of Program candidates, each candidate will take a CPA coaching course, sit for the CPA Exam, and pass the examination. Management will normally provide up to 120 hours of administrative leave to complete a CPA coaching course and to prepare for the CPA Exam. Management will grant the cited hours in the amounts shown above unless the Employer determines that granting such hours would seriously handicap the Employer in carrying out its functions or that costs would be substantially increased. If the candidate is unsuccessful in passing the CPA Exam within the 36-month SDP period, the candidate may request an extension of time to pass the exam (see Program Completion, Requirements, Part 10, below). Neither passing the CPA Exam nor achieving CPA certification is a requirement for SDP non-candidate.

Its proposal is intended to off-set "some of the non-duty time required to pass the CPA exam." SDP candidates must pass the CPA exam to complete the program, and the 120 hours of administrative leave is far less than the 500 hours the Union "understand[s]" the Employer currently gives to "management employees who participate in the Director’s masters degree program." With respect to the masters program, the Employer "refused to provide training records which would have verified the 500 hours of duty time." It is "unfair" for the Employer to permit certain management employees to receive 500 hours of administrative leave for its masters degree program while bargaining-unit employees "can’t receive a portion of that time" to pass the CPA exam.

2. The Employer’s Position

The Employer’s proposed wording is as follows:

Each SDP candidate will take a CPA coaching course, take the CPA Exam, and pass the CPA examination, unless the candidate already possesses a CPA. Management may provide administrative leave to take and complete the CPA Exam at the rate of eight (8) hours per day. In addition, Management may grant administrative leave expressly for travel to and from the CPA examination – not to exceed a total of 8 hours. Duty time is not permitted to study for the CPA review courses or preparing to take the CPA Exam.

If the candidate is unsuccessful in passing the CPA Exam within the 36-month SDP period, the candidate may request an extension of time to pass the exam (see Program Completion, Requirements, Part 10, below). The parties recognize that passing the CPA examination (all parts) is required to remain in the SDP program.

For those Auditors not participating in the SDP program, currently neither passing the CPA Exam nor achieving CPA certification is a requirement for SDP non-candidate.

A number of provisions in the parties’ expired CBA, which the Employer proposes be continued in the successor CBA, already cover professional development, and sufficiently address this topic outside the context of the SDP. For example, Article 14 authorizes absence from duty for taking the CPA exam, and the time required to travel to and from the point of the examination, without loss of pay or charge to leave. In addition, DCAA historically has supported the professional development of its employees, including the attainment of professional certifications such as the CPA, and it recently announced a new policy to continue to pay for the courses necessary to prepare for a professional certification, such as CPA preparatory courses, and for the CPA exam itself. In the Employer’s view, however, the Union’s proposal that SDP candidates be entitled to 3 weeks of on-the-clock time to study for the exam goes too far. It is also inconsistent with Article 18 of the expired CBA, which specifies that "training time will not be available to study for CPA review courses."

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented on this issue, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s final offer to resolve the parties’ dispute over the SDP. In our view, the Union has failed to demonstrate that a change in the status quo is warranted. In this regard, there is nothing in the record to substantiate its contention that the Employer grants participants in a different employee development program 500 hours of administrative leave. More importantly, even if the allegation is true, it is unclear how this would establish that the Employer’s unwillingness to provide SDP candidates with, among other things, 120 hours to prepare for the CPA exam, is unfair. To reach that conclusion, we would have to know more about the goals of the different programs and how each supports the accomplishment of the Employer’s mission. Given the variety of ways that the Employer encourages the professional development of unit employees, we are persuaded that the current practices adequately balance the parties’ interests.

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