DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS and LOCAL 15, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL

ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS

and

LOCAL 15, NATIONAL FEDERATION

OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

DECISION AND ORDER

Local 15, National Federation of Federal Employees (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 Department of the Army, Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois (Employer).

After the investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to meet informally with Staff Associate Namsoo M. Dunbar for the purpose of resolving the issues at impasse. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Mr. Dunbar would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, which was to include the final offers of the parties, and his recommendations for resolving the issues. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

Mr. Dunbar met with the parties on April 25 and 26, 1990, at the Employer's facility in Rock Island, Illinois. During these informal meetings, the parties resolved all but 6 of the approximately 33 outstanding issues, most of which concerned health and safety matters. Mr. Dunbar reported to the Panel, including his recommendations for resolution of the remaining issues, based on the record developed by the parties. The Panel has considered the entire record in the case

BACKGROUND

The mission of the Employer is the manufacture and assembly of all phases of large and small weapons systems, components of such systems, spare parts, prototypes, and advanced engineering models. In addition, the Employer provides administrative, logistical, and facility support services to the U.S. Army organizations located on the island, which is situated in the middle of the Mississippi River between the States of Illinois and Iowa and accessible by three bridges. The Union represents 3 bargaining units at this facility, namely, a professional unit of approximately 57 employees, a unit of approximately 3,600 General Schedule employees, and 1 consisting of 55 Wage Grade employees who hold positions as policemen and guards. The current dispute concerns only the latter unit.

In April 1988, the Union replaced the International Brotherhood of Police Officers/National Association of Government Employees, Local 513, which had been the exclusive representative for the preceding 20 years. This dispute before the Panel arose during bargaining over the initial collective-bargaining agreement between the parties.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

The parties disagree over: (1) the duration of employee breaks and lunch period; (2) the use of administrative leave to donate blood; (3) when tardiness in reporting to duty may be excused; (4) whether first-aid kits should be accessible throughout the job site; (5) the rights of employees when confronted with imminent danger to their health and safety; and (6) grooming standards.

1. Duration of Employee Breaks and Lunch Period(1)

    a. The Union's Position

The Union proposes that employees be allowed a 15-minute rest break during each 4 hours of continuous work, before and after the lunch period. The Employer, however, would retain the right to determine when these rest breaks would be taken. As long as the Employer maintains the current three-shift operation, employees would be allowed a 20-minute paid lunch period per 8-hour shift.

The Union asserts that adding 5 minutes to the lunch period would not have the adverse impact alleged by the Employer. It maintains that in the preceding 13 years, not one contract negotiated by a National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) local has provided for shorter rest periods than those proposed. In this regard, three collective-bargaining agreements negotiated by other NFFE locals which cover, among other employees, policemen and guards, provide for 15-minute rest breaks. Two of these agreements include lunch-period provisions for 20 minutes and 1/2-hour, respectively.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes one 10-minute rest break during each 4 hours of continuous work, before and after the lunch period. It would retain, however, the right to determine when these rest breaks would be taken. Further, bargaining-unit employees would be provided a 15-minute paid lunch period (excluding 5 minutes for travel time for guards at the external stations) per each 8-hour shift.

The Employer argues that the Union's proposal would change the status quo for this bargaining unit as well as diverge from an identical provision contained in a recently executed agreement between the parties which covers the much larger bargaining unit at the Employer's facility. Currently, employees work 8 hours at regular pay and 1/2 hour at the overtime rate which allows them time for roll call and travel to their posts of duty without interrupting the continuous three-shift operation. A longer lunch period would defeat the purpose of a paid lunch period and, therefore, the Employer may be inclined to go to an off-duty unpaid l/2-hour lunch period. If it does, employees would lose the 1/2 hour of overtime they currently are afforded.

CONCLUSIONS

Having considered the record before us, we are persuaded that the parties should withdraw their proposals on the issue of the duration of employee breaks and lunch period and adopt a compromise solution. In this regard, the parties should adopt wording which allows employees a 10-minute break during each 4 hours of continuous work, before and after the lunch period. The Employer, however, would have the right to determine when the break may be taken. In our view, this allotted time is reasonable given the Employer's discretion to grant additional time or breaks. As to the duration of the lunch period, the Employer should allow a 15-minute paid lunch period during each 8-hour shift for all employees whose post of duty is the police station, and a 20-minute paid lunch period per 8-hour shift for all other employees. Thus, employees stationed at the three most remote post-of-duty gates would be provided additional time for travel to eating facilities at the police station or nearby establishments.

 

2. Administrative Leave for Blood Donations

    a. The Union's Position

The Union proposes the following:

Employees are encouraged to serve as blood donors and will be excused from work without charge to leave for the time necessary to donate the blood, for recuperation following the donation of blood, and for necessary travel to and from the blood donation site. Normally, excusal time will not exceed four (4) hours. However, this may be extended up to eight (8) hours as needed. Employees will request excused absence under this section normally 2 duty days in advance of a donation (exceptions may be made for emergency blood donations solicited by local communities or personal needs.) The Employer may disapprove a request, requiring the employee to reschedule an appointment if mission requirements not known at the time of the request prevent the employee's release. 

The Union contends that extending leave "up to 8 hours as needed" provides employees with greater flexibility in scheduling a blood donation and should minimize their concern about being absent without leave should a donation require that they be away from work for more than 4 hours. Limiting the Employer's ability to withdraw its approval of requests for leave to "mission requirements not known at the time of the request" may discourage supervisors' unfair or arbitrary withdrawals of approved requests.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes to limit the maximum excusal time to 4 hours, except in "unusual cases. n It would limit to two the number of requests which an individual employee may be granted in 1 calendar year. Further, an employee's request could be disapproved " if the scheduled appointment unduly disrupts operations, adversely affects staffing, or creates an overtime requirement. n Finally, employees would be required to submit their requests for excused absence 2 duty days in advance of donation, but exceptions would be allowed for emergency blood donations solicited by local communities or personal needs.

The Employer notes that the only employee who requested leave to donate blood last year asked for 4 hours to do so; thus, in its view, it would be an "unusual case" for an employee to request more than 4 hours for donation of blood under its proposal. Limiting the number of occasions employees could be excused to donate blood without charge to leave may provide a more balanced approach to the efficient operation of the Employer's mission and its accommodation of a public policy. Moreover, the proposal provides flexibility in cases of emergency. Finally, it would be easier than the Union's proposal to administer and enforce because of its more specific wording and, therefore, may result in fewer grievances.

CONCLUSIONS

We conclude that, on balance, the Employer's proposal should be adopted. In our view, the "as needed" extension of leave standard proposed by the Union may be too liberal to administer in an efficient manner. Moreover, no demonstrated need exists for the additional excusal time proposed by the Union. On the other hand, the Employer's proposal provides for those "unusual cases" where an employee may require more than 4 hours to donate blood. Placing restrictions on the number of occasions an employee may be excused to donate blood is prudent for the efficient administration of the Employer's operation. There is, however, flexibility in this regard for cases of community or personal emergencies. Finally, we find that a 2-duty-day "minimal," rather than "normal," notice period for requesting leave is a more practical and efficient operating procedure.

 

3. Excused Tardiness Arrival Policy

    a. The Union's Position

The Union proposes that infrequent tardiness, up to 15 minutes at the beginning of a shift, may be excused when the supervisor determines that there are adequate reasons. Chronic tardiness, or other brief absences without adequate reason, however, may be subject to disciplinary action. Normally, formal disciplinary action would not be taken until the employee has been warned that continued tardiness could result in such action. Tardiness of up to and including 1 hour due to bad weather or the opening of the Government Bridge may be excused by supervisors. Absences in excess of those specifically provided for in the proposal would be excused in accordance with instructions from the Civilian Personnel Office.

In support of its proposal, the Union argues that, under Office of Personnel Management regulations, the Employer may, at its discretion, authorize up to 1 hour of excused absence for lateness and up to 2 hours for tardiness due to adverse weather conditions. Comparability data indicate that four collective-bargaining agreements negotiated by other NFFE locals which cover, among others, police and guards contain provisions for excused lateness "for less than 1 hour." One of those agreements also has a 2-hour grace period for "hazardous weather conditions." Moreover, taking disciplinary action against an employee for breach of a 5-minute excused lateness provision, as provided for under the Employer's proposal, may be overly restrictive.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes the following:

Infrequent tardiness up to 5 minutes at the appear to be adequate to the supervisor. Chronic tardiness, or other brief absences without adequate excuse, will be subject to disciplinary action. Normally, formal disciplinary action will not be taken until the employee has been warned that further tardiness could result in disciplinary action. Tardiness up to and including 30 minutes due to extremely bad weather or opening of the Government Bridge may be excused by all supervisors. Absences in excess of the above will be excused in accordance with specific instructions from the Civilian Personnel Office.

The Employer states that it maintains a three-shift operation for the police and guard unit in order to have continuous security coverage. Its provision, authorizing a lesser amount of time for excused absence than the Union proposes, may be necessary to minimize abuses which may result in the Employer's incurring overtime expenses to ensure employee coverage on a shift. Overtime costs increasingly are more difficult to afford due to budgetary constraints for military operations. Moreover, no problem with tardiness exists which warrants expanding the current allowances.

CONCLUSIONS

We are persuaded that the Employer's proposal should be adopted. The Union proffered no evidence demonstrating a need to expand upon the current time allowances for excused tardiness or lateness due to weather conditions. Moreover, the Employer's 5-minute excused tardiness provision, though more restrictive, may be necessary to preserve the integrity of the three-shift operation and contain expenditures for overtime pay. In this regard, a more restrictive policy may encourage employees to arrive on time, thus helping to minimize overtime pay expenses the Employer may incur to ensure work coverage during their absence. Furthermore, the use of "bad weather" for excusal due to weather conditions may be too subjective a standard.

 

4. First-Aid Kits

    a. The Union's Position

The Union's proposal provides for prompt medical treatment and facilities for employees who may be injured or become ill on the job, including a provision for placing well-stocked first-aid kits at convenient and readily accessible locations. The Union asserts that due to the nature of employees' duties, first-aid kits should be readily available so immediate attention to injuries or trauma may be provided until more complete and competent medical attention could be obtained.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer offers prompt medical treatment and facilities for employeeswho may be injured or become ill on the job, but would not provide first-aid kits on the job. It argues that its proposal provides for all that is necessary, a paramedic facility located next to the police station and an ambulance service which responds to reports of injuries in the field. Should first-aid kits be provided too, it may discourage compliance with standard operating procedures which require employees to report any injury immediately to a supervisor for release to the Army Health Care Clinic or, at the employee's request, be referred to an alternative medical care facility. Noncompliance with these procedures may enhance the Employer's liability to employees for on-the-job injuries. Employees would not be prohibited from bringing in, at their own expense, first-aid items, such as, bandages, peroxide, or iodine.

CONCLUSIONS

We are persuaded by the Union's argument that given the nature of the employees' duties, having "well-stocked first-aid kits at convenient and readily accessible locations" is necessary; otherwise, employees may be forced to wait for immediate medical attention until either the ambulance service arrives or they are able to go to the Army Health Care Clinic.

 

5. Health and Safety

    a. The Union's Position

The Union proposes, in essence, that an employee faced with imminent danger to safety "can and should" be allowed to take appropriate action to protect life and limb. Employees have the right based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Whirlpool Corp. v. Marshall, 445 U.S. 1, (1980)(2) not to perform their assigned tasks when they have a reasonable apprehension of death or serious injury coupled with a belief that no less drastic action alternative is available. This right afforded private sector employees also may serve as a reasonable standard for Federal employees as well. Moreover, a collective-bargaining agreement that covers, among others, police and guards who are Federal employees, contains an identical provision.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes the following:

Common sense dictates that an employee faced with imminent danger to his safety can and should take appropriate action to protect life and limb.

The Employer argues that it is clear that the Court's decision in Whirlpool applies only to private-sector employees. There is no support for the Union's position that a similar right would be applicable to Federal employees, such as a unit of police and guards whose duties may be inherently dangerous to life or limb.

CONCLUSIONS

In regard to this issue, the parties should adopt the Employer's proposal concerning imminent danger to employee safety on the job. In our view, the Union's proposal improperly applies the Court's holding in Whirlpool to Federal employees.(3) The Employer's proposal, on the other hand, embodies the spirit of the Whirlpool decision without specifically adopting it.

 

6. Grooming Standards

    a. The Union's Position

The Union's proposal requires employees to maintain a well-groomed look, with hair trimmed to prevent interference with job duties, and facial hair trimmed to provide a- clean, neat look. The Union contends that its proposal dispenses with arbitrary standards such as those regarding jewelry and makeup under the Employer's proposal.

    b. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes that each employee should report to duty in the prescribed uniform, which should be neat, clean, and worn correctly. Further, an employee's personal appearance should conform to the following requirements: (1) the