DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT REGION 9 SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA and LOCAL 1450, 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

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN
     DEVELOPMENT
REGION 9
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

and

LOCAL 1450, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
     FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, FEDERAL
  DISTRICT 1, IAM&AW, AFL-CIO

Case No. 03 FSIP 54

DECISION AND ORDER

   Local 1450, National Federation of Federal Employees, Federal District 1, IAM&AW, 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 Housing and Urban Development, Region 9, San Francisco, California (Employer).

   After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerns ground rules for negotiating a successor collective-bargaining agreement (CBA), should be resolved through an informal conference with Panel Member John G. Cruz. The parties also 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 recommendations for resolving the impasse. 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 conducted an informal conference with the parties on June 24, 2003, at the Employer’s offices in San Francisco, California. During the course of the meeting, the parties explored their interests and made some progress towards resolution of the issues. Thereafter, the parties submitted to the Panel, and each other, their final offers on eight issues along with statements of position; only the Union submitted a rebuttal statement. Following the exchange of their final offers and statements of position, the parties continued discussions over the proposals which resulted in the voluntary resolution of six issues. Accordingly, Member Cruz has reported to the Panel on the two remaining issues, and it now has considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer, the Pacific/Hawaii Region (Region 9),(1) is one of 10 regions within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) responsible for programs that address America’s housing needs, including improvement and development of the Nation’s communities, and enforcement of fair housing laws. The Union represents approximately 575 professional and non-professional bargaining-unit employees stationed in 11 offices in four states within Region 9. Employees hold positions such as appraiser, architect, fair housing specialist, housing project manager, single family housing specialist, and program assistant; typically, employees have technical, financial management, and contracting skills. The parties’ current CBA, which was scheduled to expire on December 2, 2002, has been extended until a successor agreement is implemented.(2)

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

   The parties disagree over the maximum number of Union negotiators who would be on official time while at the table for term negotiations, and the number of Union negotiators who would have their travel expenses and per diem allowances paid for by the Employer during contract bargaining.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

   In essence, the Employer proposes to grant official time for up to three employee members of the Union’s bargaining team, who are designated in writing, to conduct negotiations. An additional non-employee may serve on the Union’s team, though not at Government expense. As to travel and per diem, the Employer proposes to pay the authorized travel expenses and per diem allowances for up to three employee members of the Union’s bargaining team. The Employer contends that limiting the number of Union negotiators on official time to three would promote efficiency in the use of staff resources because the parties have not agreed to a time limit on renegotiating the CBA. Furthermore, since the management team will have only three negotiators, authorizing official time for three Union negotiators would be consistent with 5 U.S.C. §7131(a).(3) Even with only three Union team members on official time, the Union still would have the advantage of a fourth bargaining team member at the table–-the Union’s business agent. Limiting the Union to three team members on official time should not interfere with the Union’s ability to represent the interests of bargaining-unit members in the four-state area throughout the Region because the Union has the ability to communicate with them through e-mail, teleconference and regular mail, should it need to have employee input during bargaining.

   With respect to travel and per diem, to contain the cost of bargaining over the successor CBA, the Employer should not be required to pay these expenses for more than three Union negotiators. Such costs could be substantial since the parties have not placed any restrictions on the amount of time they would be in negotiations. Its proposal is consistent with the current practice for bargaining mid-term matters, where management only pays travel and per diem for up to three Union employee negotiators, a resolution that was ordered by the Panel when it issued a decision regarding the parties’ previous impasse on the current CBA.

2. The Union’s Position

   Essentially, the Union proposes that management provide official time, as needed, for four employee members of the Union team, designated in writing. An additional non-employee also would serve on the Union team. Furthermore, the Employer should pay all authorized travel expenses and per diem allowances for up to four employee negotiators. The parties’ experience in bargaining over the current CBA supports the Union’s position that it should have four negotiators on official time, plus a fifth non-employee negotiator at the table. In this regard, the Union represents employees in a four-state area, stationed in 11 different offices, who have a wide variety of interests that need to be represented at the bargaining table. According to the Union, a previous contract was not ratified by the Union membership because all interests were not represented at the table. The proposal demonstrates its willingness to compromise because, initially, the Union had proposed to have five team members on official time. A reduction to four is a change from two previous term contract negotiations where the Union’s bargaining team included five team members on official time.

   Payment of travel and per diem for four employee negotiators would provide the Union with the flexibility to appoint team members from various offices throughout the four-state area where bargaining-unit employees are stationed. In this regard, the only Union negotiator located in San Francisco, where bargaining is to take place, is eligible for retirement and, therefore, it may be necessary for the Union to replace him with someone from a field office in another state. The Union does not have the financial resources to pay for travel and per diem expenses during these contract negotiations, which will involve bargaining over many more articles than were opened during negotiations over the current CBA. The increased scope of bargaining also supports the Union’s need for at least four representatives at the table, some of whom are from geographic areas outside of San Francisco.

CONCLUSIONS

   Having carefully reviewed the evidence and arguments presented in support of the parties’ positions, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s proposals on both issues. In our view, since the parties have not established any limits on the duration of their negotiations for a successor agreement, it is not unreasonable to insist upon a mechanism in their ground rules designed to limit the Employer’s exposure to funding face-to-face collective bargaining. By restricting the number of Union negotiators to three on official time, and authorizing the payment of travel and per diem for the same number, the expense of face-to-face contract negotiations would be contained to a greater extent than under the Union’s proposal. An employer’s interest in limiting this obligation is not, in and of itself, a compelling reason to accept the Employer’s proposal, but here, we are persuaded that the Union is not disadvantaged by this outcome. As the Employer points out, there are other means of communicating with bargaining-unit members, such as e-mail and teleconferencing, which should enable the Union to obtain employee input on various issues of interest in the geographically disbursed bargaining-unit which it represents. Furthermore, this outcome will promote less costly methods of collective bargaining while simultaneously providing the parties incentive to make face-to-face collective bargaining more meaningful.

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 § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the following:

   The parties shall adopt the Employer’s proposals on official time, and the payment of travel expenses and per diem allowances for employee negotiators on the Union’s bargaining team.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky
Executive Director

December 10, 2003
Washington, D.C.

1. Another union, the American Federation of Government Employees, represents the 15 employees who work in the Hawaii office.

2. The parties’ current CBA was negotiated with the assistance of the Panel, which issued a Decision and Order in Department of Housing and Urban Development, Pacific/Hawaii Region, San Francisco, California and Local 1450, NFFE, Federal District 1, IAM&AW, Case No. 99 FSIP 93 (September 30, 1999), Panel Release No. 425, involving parts of four articles.