PANAMA CANAL COMMISSION BALBOA, ANCON, REPUBLIC OF PANAMA and INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES, AND PILOTS, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

PANAMA CANAL COMMISSION

BALBOA, ANCON, REPUBLIC OF PANAMA

and

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF

MASTERS, MATES, AND PILOTS,

AFL-CIO

 Case No. 90 FSIP 64

DECISION AND ORDER

 

The International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots, AFL-CIO (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under section 7119 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute) between it and the Panama Canal Commission, Balboa, Ancon, Republic of Panama (Employer).

The Panel declined to assert jurisdiction over three of the four issues presented by the Union, and determined that the parties' dispute over the remaining issue should be resolved on the basis of written submissions. After considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

The Employer' s mission is to operate and maintain the Panama Canal. The Union represents 237 employees who pilot vessels through the Canal. In July 1988, the parties agreed to a new 5-year contract.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The current dispute arose from mid-term negotiations in 1982 over the installation of high mast lighting (HML) Which permitted the piloting of large vessels through the Canal in hours of darkness. The issue concerns the amount of premium pay, if any, pilots should receive because of the changes in A (HML) (HML) at 4.

1. The Union's Position

The Union proposes the following wordlng:

A bonus equal to fourteen (14) times the pilots' basic rate of pay will be paid to the pilots of a vessel with an extreme beam of 100 feet or more which arrives or departs a set of locks during hours of darkness.

The additional compensation which would be provided under the Union's proposal is justified essentially because of "the conditions under which pilots work, their professional responsibility, and the stress or pressures involved in the safe lockage of a huge vessel under [HML] conditions. In this regard, the transiting of large vessels through the Panama Canal became even more difficult with the installation of HML because it further complicates the pilots' task of accurately gauging the distance between the vessel and the "unyielding wall" of the chambers of the locks of the Canal. In addition, pilots do not have regularly scheduled hours of work, nor do they operate the same vessels day in and day out, under the same conditions. Pilots who are guilty of a momentary lapse of attention or error in judgment may be subject to a loss of their license. Also significant is the fact that the average transit involves 12 hours "and is frequently longer. n In this regard, a study by the Chief of the Occupational Division of the Panama Canal Commission, issued in 1988, concluded that "the risk of an accident is increased when continuous duty exceeds 10 [to] 12 hours.

The Employer's calculations of the potential costs of the Union's proposal, and its attempt to characterize current pilots' pay as stratospheric," n are misleading. Pilots' pay currently "is less than the compensation of senior pilots in the various ports of the United States." Comparisons also show that their pay "is not greater (if in fact as great) than the purchasing power of the 1982 earnings of the pilots" in spite of the fact that they now perform the more stressful HML of extreme beam vessels. More