U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION WASHINGTON, D.C. AND CHAPTER 208, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C.

AND

CHAPTER 208, NATIONAL TREASURY

EMPLOYEES UNION

Case No. 92 FSIP 113

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Chapter 208, National Treasury Employees Union (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 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, which arose during negotiations over the transfer of approximately 670 bargaining-unit employees to a building under construction known as Two White Flint North (TWFN), should be directed to private factfinding. Under this procedure, the designated factfinder's fees and related expenses were to be shared equally by the parties. Following receipt of the Factfinder's Report, which was not to contain recommendations for settlement, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. On September 9 and 10, 1992, a hearing was held before Factfinder William P. Hobgood in Rockville, Maryland. A stenographic record was made, testimony and argument were presented, and documentary evidence was submitted. The factfinder also made a site visit of four floors in One White Flint North (OWFN), a comparable building adjacent to TWFN. In accordance with the Panel's procedural determination, the factfinder issued his Report on February 1, 1993. The Panel has now considered the entire record in the case, including the stenographic record made at the hearing.(1) The Factfinder's Report, which sets forth pertinent background information as well as the positions of the parties regarding the issues at impasse, is attached to this Decision and Order.(2)

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over: (1) what the minimum square footage of work space for those bargaining-unit employees scheduled to be relocated to TWFN should be; (2) whether enclosed offices reserved for managers should be in the core of the building or around the perimeter next to the windows; and (3) whether the Union should have a 400-square-foot office in TWFN.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having examined the evidence and arguments on the issue of the minimum square footage of work space for bargaining-unit employees, we conclude that the Employer's proposal provides the more reasonable basis for resolving the dispute. The record demonstrates that its proposal is the result of months of planning based primarily on its previous experience at OWFN, which has employed similar office sizes since 1988. The Union, on the other hand, has provided little justification, and no comparability data, for treating all employees Grade 9 and above identically, without regard to length of service or job performed. In our view, such an approach could undercut the morale of higher graded employees. Although the Employer undoubtedly could provide employees with more spacious accommodations and still be within General Services Administration (GSA) guidelines, its plan does not appear to benefit managers at the expense of the bargaining unit. In fact, by providing higher graded bargaining-unit employees with 168 open offices of 100 square feet, the Employer's plan fares well even in comparison with the Union's proposal. Moreover, the data provided by the Employer show that its plan is comparable to the practices at other Federal agencies. While the occupants of TWFN will undoubtedly require a period of adjustment, especially those employees used to larger offices with conventional furniture, we are persuaded that the Employer has carefully considered the impact of its plan on its ability to perform its mission, and on employee morale and job functions. Under such circumstances, we are unwilling to withhold from it the right to determine what is in the best interest of supporting its mission.

    Turning to the issue of whether enclosed offices should be in the core of the building or around the perimeter, we also favor the Employer's position. The main reason for the Union's proposal appears to be to increase the amount of natural light reaching inner office areas. The evidence offered in its support, however, is primarily anecdotal, and includes no comparability data. Moreover, the record indicates that whoever sits at the windows controls the blinds for that space, so there is no guarantee that putting bargaining-unit employees on the perimeter would achieve the intended results. There also is nothing to refute the testimony of the Employer's space-design expert that putting open offices around the perimeter of the building would have a negative impact on mission accomplishment by decreasing the ability to accommodate "adjacencies." Since a typical floor under the Employer's plan would have 37 enclosed offices with 16-inch wide, clear-story panels and/or sidelights on the interior walls, and 33 open offices on its perimeter, we are persuaded that extraordinary steps to permit natural light to enter the building are unnecessary. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Employer's proposal.

    On the final issue of Union office space, we believe that the adoption of a compromise solution is warranted. In this regard, the Union president testified that its current space in OWFN, divided between two floors, is inadequate to meet its representational needs, particularly with respect to maintaining the privacy of bargaining-unit employees. The Union, however, did not sufficiently justify the need for space in both buildings, which the record shows would amount to about 650 total square feet if its proposal were adopted. The Employer, on the other hand, unconvincingly argues against the Union's proposal solely on the basis of its inability to find the necessary space in TWFN. Given these circumstances, we shall order the Employer to grant the Union the option of retaining its current space within OWFN, or of having a 250-square-foot office in TWFN instead. The record reveals that 250 square feet is equivalent to the total amount that the Union now occupies in OWFN, and should be enough to alleviate the Union's legitimate privacy concerns. In our view, the Employer should have little difficulty finding the necessary space in TWFN, should the Union request it. Moreover, because the buildings are adjacent, requiring some employees with representational business to travel between them should present no real hardship.

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

1. Minimum Square Footage for Office Space in TWFN

    The parties shall adopt the Employer's proposal.

2. Location of Bargaining-Unit Employees' Offices

    The parties shall adopt the Employer's proposal.

3. Union Office Space

    The Union shall have the option of retaining its current space in two locations within OWFN, or of having one 250-square-foot office in TWFN.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

May 25, 1993

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Prior to submitting his final Factfinder's Report to the Panel, he permitted the parties to make written responses to an initial draft. The factfinder included these responses along with other material when he submitted his Report to the Panel. The parties' written responses to his initial draft were not considered by the Panel in rendering its decision in this case.

2.On May 6, 1993, prior to the Panel's consideration of the merits of the issues at impasse, the Union requested that the Panel "reopen the record on this matter to allow the parties to present evidence" on a number of items addressed in the Factfinder's Report that it alleges have been affected by the issuance of Executive