DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS COLMERY O'NEIL MEDICAL CENTER TOPEKA, KANSAS and LOCAL R14-8, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO



United States of America



BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL





_______________________________________

)

In the Matter of )

)

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS )

COLMERY O'NEIL MEDICAL CENTER )

TOPEKA, KANSAS )

)

and ) Case Nos. 92 FSIP 41

) 92 FSIP 57

LOCAL R14-8, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF )

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO )

_______________________________________)





DECISION AND ORDER



Local R14-8, National Association of Government Employees, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO (Union) filed request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel to consider negotiation impasses under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5. U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Colmery O'Neil Medical Center, Topeka, Kansas (Employer).



After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel consolidated the cases for administrative convenience and directed the parties to meed informally with Panel Member Charles A. Kothe for the purpose of resolving the disputes concerning: (1) weekend shifts for housekeeping employees in Building Management Service; and (2) rotation of shifts for cooks in Dietetic Service. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Member Kothe would report to the Panel on the status of the disputes, including the parties' final offers, and his recommendations for resolving the impasses. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasses, including the issuance of a binding decision. Member Kothe met with the parties on April 29, 1992, at the Colmery O'Neil Medical Center in Topeka, Kansas. The parties were unable to achieve a settlement, and he has reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties. The Panel has now considered the entire record in the cases.



BACKGROUND



The Employer's mission is to provide medical care to veterans. The hospital employs approximately 1,250 staff members, 700 of whom are included in the bargaining unit. The Union represents nonprofessional employees who work in areas such as housekeeping, food service, and administration, their grades ranging from WG-1 through -8 and GS-2 through -6. The parties are covered by a master agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Association of Government Employees. While a new master agreement has been negotiated, the parties continue to operate under the terms of the expired one until its successor is implemented.



The dispute arose from negotiations over the impact and implementation of changed working conditions proposed by the Employer; there has been no implementation of the Employer's proposals.



Case No. 92 FSIP 41



The issue concerns the length of the rotation period during which employees in Building Management Service would be scheduled to work weekend shifts.



POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES



1. The Union's Position



The Union proposes that the length of the rotation period be limited to 30 days, with selection based on inverse seniority whenever there are either too many or too few volunteers. This final proposal was arrived at following a polling of the affected employees by way of a questionnaire asking that they indicate a preference. Of the approximately 40 affected individuals, 23 responded, with all but one requesting a 1-month rotation. The Union maintains that a 30-day period is fair to all employees, as it allows weekends to be adequately covered, without an undue administrative burden being placed on the Employer. The Employer's proposal is extreme, as it would require employees to work weekends for a lengthy period of time; in the Union's view, this is likely to have a negative effect on employee morale.



2. The Employer's Position



The Employer proposes the following:



a. Building Management Service will solicit volunteers from the Service for existing vacancies. If there are more volunteers than vacancies, then the most senior (by enter on duty date) will be selected for the position.



b. If there are insufficient volunteers for vacancies, then the least senior (by enter on duty date) employees will be selected to fill the vacancy or vacancies.



c. Employees will normally remain on weekend coverage until their services are no longer needed.



d. All employees who no longer wish to work the weekend tour will submit a memorandum to the Chief, Building Management Service, explaining his or her rationale.



e. Management will consider each request and will make a determination. Final approval or denial will be made in writing with an explanation of the decision. If the request is denied, the employee may appeal the decision through the negotiated grievance procedure. Volunteers will be solicited to replace weekend coverage.



The Employer maintains that whenever the number of volunteers exceeds the number of vacancies, filling the vacancies with the most senior volunteers is fair and equitable. In its view, vacancies should be filled on the basis of inverse seniority only when there is an insufficient number of volunteers. Moreover, a 6-month rotation period is necessary in order to maintain the efficient operation of Building Management Service. A 30-day period, as proposed by the Union, would be overly disruptive and could have a negative effect on productivity.

CONCLUSIONS



Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, a reasonable solution to the issue is a compromise. We, therefore, shall order adoption of the following plan for weekend coverage in Building Management Service:



a. Building Management Service will solicit volunteers from the Service for existing vacancies. If there are more volunteers than vacancies, then the most senior (enter on duty date) will be selected for the position. When the weekend assignments are staffed by volunteers, the weekend schedule will be rotated every 3 months among those who volunteered, using seniority as the basis for selection.



b. If there are insufficient volunteers, employees will be selected to fill vacancies on the basis of inverse seniority (enter on duty date). Employees so assigned will not be required to work the weekend tour longer than 2 months. The assignment after 2 months shall be rotated by choosing the least senior individual from among the remaining eligible employees.



c. All employees who no longer wish to work the weekend tour will submit a memorandum to the Chief, Building Management Service, explaining his or her rationale. Management will consider each request and will make a determination. Final approval or denial will be made in writing with an explanation of the decision. If the request is denied, the employee may appeal the decision through the negotiated grievance procedure.



Case No. 92 FSIP 57



The second issue, concerning the rotation of cooks in Dietetic Service arose from negotiations pursuant to a settlement agreement dated February 6, 1991, which resolved an Unfair Labor Practice complaint.



1. The Employer's Position



The Employer proposes that all cooks rotate shifts, with their shift to change every 3 months. Rotation would be through (1) the 5:30 a.m. to 2/3 p.m. shift; (2) the 8 a.m. to 4:30/5:30 p.m. shift; (3) the 9/10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. shift; and (4) the annual leave relief and regular relief positions. The Employer believes that such a rotation is necessary so that cooks would remain current in all phases of food production, thereby utilizing all of their skills. Rotation through all shifts would also be fair to these employees, as it would allow for the workload to be evenly distributed over the year; in this regard, the Employer notes that some meals are consistently more difficult to produce than others. Finally, rotating shifts would equalize access to Sunday premium pay, thereby resulting in an economic benefit to some employees.



2. The Union's Position



The Union opposes any change in the shift schedule noting that the cooks are unanimous in their desire to stay on a non-rotating schedule. It argues that there is no demonstrated need to change the status quo and that there is no benefit to having employees rotate. The Union emphasizes that the Employer's proposal would disrupt the lives of several employees, thereby having a negative impact on employee morale. In this regard, it points out that some employees may have dependent care arrangements or other employment obligations which necessitate that they remain on a fixed schedule. For these reasons, the Union urges the Panel to reject the Employer's proposed plan.



CONCLUSIONS



Both parties agree that the only acceptable solution is "all or none." Thus, because there was no persuasive evidence or documentation presented by the Employer to justify the need for rotation, and the Union having presented convincing reasons as to why the rotation would be disruptive to the lives of the employees, it is concluded that the status quo should be maintained.



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 the proceeding instituted under the Panel's regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under section 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the adoption of the following:



Case No. 92 FSIP 41



a. Building Management Service will solicit volunteers from the Service for existing vacancies. If there are more volunteers than vacancies, then the most senior (enter on duty date) will be selected for the position. When the weekend assignments are staffed by volunteers, the weekend schedule will be rotated every 3 months among those who volunteered, using seniority as the basis for selection.



b. If there are insufficient volunteers, employees will be selected to fill vacancies on the basis of inverse sen