DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE FRANCIS E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE CHEYENNE, WYOMING and LOCAL 2354, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America



BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL



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In the Matter of )

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DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE )

FRANCIS E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE )

CHEYENNE, WYOMING )

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and ) Case No. 92 FSIP 50

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LOCAL 2354, AMERICAN FEDERATION )

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO )

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DECISION AND ORDER





Local 2354, 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, Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming (Employer).



After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerns uniform allowances for firefighters and the increments in which annual leave may be taken, should be resolved through an informal teleconference with a Panel representative. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the Panel's representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the final offers of the parties, and would make recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.



Pursuant to the Panel's determination, Staff Associate Nick G. Duris conducted a telephone conference with the parties on November 4, 1992. During that proceeding, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the outstanding issues. Mr. Duris has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.



BACKGROUND



The Employer's mission is to maintain Minuteman III and Peacekeeper missiles. The Union represents approximately 426 General Schedule (GS) and Wage Grade (WG) employees. GS employees work in a variety of administrative and technical occupations while WG employees hold such positions as carpenter, electrician, maintenance mechanic, plumber, and warehouseman. There are approximately 14 firefighters in the bargaining unit who are affected by the dispute over uniform allowances, but all bargaining-unit employees are affected by the dispute over increments of leave. The parties' collective-bargaining agreement is to expire in December 1993.



The dispute arose during negotiations over the Employer's plan to: (1) implement National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) safety standards on firefighters' uniforms -- specifically, requiring them to purchase fire-resistant pants and shirts that meet those standards; and (2) allow employees to use annual or sick leave in 15-minute increments versus the current 1-hour increment system.



ISSUES AT IMPASSE



The parties disagree over whether: (1) firefighters should pay for the new uniforms out of their annual uniform allowances, and (2) employees should have the option of taking annual or sick leave in 15-minute increments.



POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES



1. Uniform Allowances



a. The Employer's Position



The Employer proposes the following:



Firefighters will be provided $400 per year for initial or replacement uniform costs. All firefighters will be required to wear only fire resistant uniforms after June 1, 1993.



The firefighters were informed in March 1991 that they would need to purchase fire-resistant shirts and pants for the Employer to comply with the NFPA standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted these standards and expects compliance by July 1993; non-compliance would subject the Employer to possible fines. Furthermore, firefighters have had plenty of time to save their uniform allowances to pay for the new uniforms, and still have until June 1, 1993, to comply. Additionally, the Employer has increased uniform allowances from $300 to $400, the maximum allowed by law. It would be unwarranted for it to purchase the new pants and shirts in light of all this. Also, any argument that the new attire can be considered "safety equipment," for which the Employer has paid in the past, is inconsequential. In this regard, "even if the Panel were to draw the conclusion that the uniforms are a safety item, management maintains that we are in fact issuing them in the form of a clothing allowance."



b. The Union's Position



The Union proposes the following:



Management provide the personnel protective equipment of the firefighters' workstation uniform to all firefighters, in accordance with Air Force Occupational Safety and Health regulations 127-31, with a minimum of three serviceable personnel protective equipment nomex type work uniforms or state of the art if upgraded by more current standards as these safety guidelines are updated.



Uniform allowances should not be used to pay for the proposed change to fire-resistant pants and shirts. Since the Employer is initiating the change, it should pay for it. Furthermore, since the clothing is fire-resistant, it can be considered safety equipment, for which the Employer has paid in the past. Moreover, the current uniform allowance may not be enough to provide for a sufficient number of uniforms since firefighters go through more than one uniform per year.



CONCLUSIONS



Having considered the evidence and arguments on this issue, we conclude that the Employer's proposal should be adopted. The record reveals that the firefighters were informed of the change in uniforms over a year ago. In our view, they have had sufficient time to apportion their uniform allowances, which currently are the maximum permitted by law, to pay for the new fire-resistant pants and shirts. Additionally, although the new fire-resistant items of clothing meet current NFPA safety standards, we are not persuaded by the Union's argument that they are "safety equipment" which expense should be borne by the Employer apart from the annual uniform allowance it already provides.



2. Leave Increments



a. The Employer's Position



The Employer proposes that:



Employees may utilize annual or sick leave in 15-minute increments. Employees may not be charged annual or sick leave without consent. Employees may not be charged annual or sick leave for exceeding the allotted rest period as allowed by the Memorandum of Agreement. If employees do not wish to take annual or sick leave in 15-minute increments, they may not be required to do so.



Based on a recent survey, a majority of employees prefer to take leave in 15-minute increments. Its proposal would significantly benefit employees because it would not force them to be charged more leave than is necessary. For example, "if an employee is away from work for a doctor's appointment and that appointment lasts for 1 hour and 25 minutes, the employee should be charged leave for only 1 and ½ hours versus 2 hours (if charged 2 hours) as the Union desires." Additionally, its proposed wording should eliminate any fears employees may have concerning being charged leave for exceeding allotted rest periods.







b. The Union's Position



The Union proposes that the status quo be maintained, i.e., that employees continue to take leave only in 1-hour increments. It opposes the establishment of a 15-minute increment leave system because leave and earnings statements have not reflected accurate figures even under the current 1-hour leave system. Thus, the implementation of a 15-minute increment system is sure to be even less accurate and lead to further confusion. Moreover, it fears that the Employer's real motive in introducing such a system is to charge employees leave for going outside to smoke or exceeding the allotted break periods.



CONCLUSIONS



Having considered the evidence and arguments on this issu