DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS and LOCAL 2119, 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 2119, NATIONAL FEDERATION

OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Case No. 92 FSIP 173

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Department of the Army, Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois (Employer), and Local 2119, National Federation of Federal Employees (Union) filed a joint 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).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerns the leave status of employees during periods of shutdown, 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 Harry E. Jones spoke with the parties by telephone on October 6, 1992. During that proceeding, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the outstanding issue. Mr. Jones has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    Rock Island Arsenal manufactures and assembles weapons systems for the Department of Defense; spare parts, prototypes, advanced engineering models, and tool sets are also crafted there. Because its operating funds are generated through the sale of its products, the facility is, in a sense, comparable to a private defense contractor. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 1,300 Wage Grade employees who work at the arsenal and 3 tenant commands located at the installation.(1) The parties have agreed to abide by the terms of a prior agreement between the Employer and the predecessor union until a new contract is implemented. They have reached impasse following negotiations over the impact and implementation of the Employer's plan to curtail operations, with the possible exception of essential personnel, during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.(2)

ISSUE

    The sole issue at impasse is whether employees affected by the shutdown should be granted administrative leave or be forced to take annual leave.

1. The Union's Proposal

    The Union proposes the following:

All affected employees shall be placed on administrative leave without charge to annual leave for the periods of shutdown.

    Placing employees on administrative leave would be less disruptive, as it would allow them to retain control over the use of their annual leave; this is consistent with a widely accepted principle of labor-management relations which allows vacation time to be scheduled in accordance with employee preference, absent a compelling reason to the contrary. The Employer's savings on utilities would be identical regardless of whether employees are placed on annual leave or administrative leave, and, therefore, adoption of this proposal should not be an impediment to the Employer's planned shutdown. In addition, the proposal is consistent with Article 12, Section 4, of the parties' labor agreement which guarantees employees 2 consecutive weeks of annual leave.(3) Overall, requiring that the Employer pay for its decision to shut down, rather than having employees bear the burden, is a more equitable approach to the issue.

    The Employer's proposal should be rejected because it requires employees to use a significant portion of their accrued annual leave at the Employer's direction. In this regard, the savings realized by a decision to shut down does not justify forcing 1,300 employees to take annual leave. Since annual leave is an earned benefit, directing employees when to use it is comparable to telling them where, when, and how to spend their paychecks. Forced annual leave could be disruptive to some employees' vacation plans and may reduce, for others, the lump-sum which is paid at retirement for unused annual leave. More important, adoption of the Employer's proposal would undercut Article 12, Section 4, of the parties' collective-bargaining agreement, as some employees would not accrue a sufficient amount of leave to take 2 consecutive weeks of vacation when they prefer. Finally, adoption of the Employer's approach would require that some employees use annual leave during a religious holiday period which they do not observe.

2. The Employer's Proposal

    The Employer's proposal is as follows:

The Employer may exercise its discretion to shut down operations for all or a portion(s) of its activities for up to 40 hours in a calendar year. Employees shall be required to use annual leave and/or leave without pay to cover the period of the shutdown. The Employer agrees to authorize an advance of annual leave to cover the period of the shutdown, limited to the amount the employee would earn during the established leave year.

    Requiring employees to use annual leave during periods of shutdown would allow the Employer to continue with its plan to close the facility during the upcoming holiday season; conversely, if the Employer's proposal is not adopted, the decision to shut down will be rescinded. Shutting down during the holiday season would (1) eliminate lost productivity which occurs on days which are traditionally selected for annual leave by a large percentage of the workforce and (2) result in an estimated savings of $85,000 due to the reduced use of utilities. Moreover, because each employee would have less annual leave for use during the remainder of the year, overall productivity is likely to increase. While some employees may be inconvenienced by a holiday shutdown, the adverse impact of this plan should be minimal since many workers request annual leave during this period anyway; in this same vein, the number of hours involved represents only a portion of most employees' annual leave, as many have a significant bank of unused hours. By allowing employees to take leave without pay during the proposed shutdown period, the proposal is likely to benefit those employees who would have worked during the holiday period only because they had insufficient annual leave. Adoption of the proposal would be consistent with prior Panel decisions,(4) the Federal Personnel Manual,(5) and opinions of the Comptroller General.(6) Furthermore, the proposal is similar to a provision contained in a collective-bargaining agreement between the Employer and another union(7) and is consonant with a practice which has evolved at the arsenal.(8) Closing during the holiday season is a common practice in the private sector and is one observed by the vast majority of manufacturing firms in the area.(9) As to the Union's argument that employees who earn annual leave at a rate of 4 hours per pay period will not have a sufficient amount of annual leave to allow them to take 2 consecutive weeks of vacation, additional overtime opportunities would be provided to those employees to "make up the difference" between the number of hours in an employee's leave bank and the 80 hours of consecutive annual leave guaranteed by the contract.

    The Union's proposal would amount to providing all 1,300 bargaining-unit employees with five additional paid holidays at a total cost of approximately $1 million and would result in management canceling the planned shutdown and operating the facility for 5 days at significantly diminished capacity. Since approximately 50 percent of the workforce takes annual leave on the Friday after Thanksgiving and during some portion of the Christmas holiday period, placing employees on administrative leave for those days would result in a windfall for those who have selected the days as vacation days. Overall, the Union's proposal is fiscally unsound and would result in significant costs with no offsetting benefits.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having examined the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the Employer's proposal. While forced annual leave may result in inconvenience to some employees, on balance, the cost savings and productivity increases which are likely to flow from the Employer's plan outweigh the loss of employee control in the scheduling of annual leave. The number of hours involved represents a relatively small portion of most employees' accrued annual leave, and, therefore, vacation plans are not likely to be disrupted by this decision. Moreover, the Employer's plan allows employees the option of selecting either annual leave or leave without pay; this should allow most workers to retain some control over their accrued annual leave while providing a benefit to those who would have worked only because they had an insufficient amount of annual leave hours.

    In reaching this decision, we are mindful that a small number of employees may not accrue a sufficient amount of annual leave to allow them to take 2 consecutive weeks of annual leave as established by the collective-bargaining agreement; however, we are convinced that the additional overtime opportunities proposed by the Employer should provide an adequate adjustment to those few employees whose rights under Article 12, Section 4, are adversely affected. With respect to the Union's proposal, we agree with the Employer that placing the entire workforce on administrative leave is equivalent to creating five additional paid holidays and would be a windfall for those employees who would have requested annual leave on the dates of the proposed shutdown. Furthermore, the cost of such a proposal is prohibitive, especially in the current economic climate. In sum, the Employer's proposal provides a better overall resolution to the impasse, and, therefore, we shall order its adoption.

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:

    The parties shall adopt the Employer's proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

October 26, 1992

Washington, D.C.

 

1.The vast majority of bargaining-unit employees work at the arsenal. They are the only ones affected by this dispute.

2.The dates which have been proposed for this year are November 27, and December 28 through 31.

3.That portion of the parties' agreement provides as follows:

Vacations will be granted so that employees will be permitted at least 2 consecutive weeks' annual leave during the calendar year. The supervisor shall endeavor to afford each employee leave at the time the employee considers convenient and desirable.

4.See Department of the Army, Headquarters, Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command, Rock Island, Illinois and Local 15, National Federation of Federal Employees, Case No. 92 FSIP 204 (October 1, 1992), Panel Release No. 336. In that case, the Panel ordered the parties to adopt the Employer's proposal requiring employees to use 8 hours of annual leave, compensatory time, or leave without pay during a 1-day holiday shutdown on the Friday following Thanksgiving. See also Department of the Navy, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California and Local 5, Planners, Estimators, Progressmen, and Schedulers; Federal Employees Metal Trades Council; Local 25, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO; and Local 11, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO, Case Nos. 92 FSIP 147, 150, 151, and 159 (June 25, 1992), Panel Release No. 332. In those cases, the Panel rejected the unions' proposal which would have required the Employer to compensate employees with 1 day of administrative leave for each day of annual leave (or other leave) that they were forced to take during a 32-hour shutdown period.

5.The Federal Personnel Manual, Chapter 610, Subchapter 3, Paragraph 3-6c provides as follows: 

Group dismissal may be necessary to better utilize funds or resources. In such situations, agencies may detail employees to other duties; require employees to schedule annual leave for use during the non-duty period; or furlough employees if lack of work or funds is involved. Agencies must provide employees with reasonable advance notice of a planned curtailment and of any requirement to save annual leave for use during the prescribed period. Agencies may deny requests for annual leave that would cause an employee's leave balance to be less than that required to cover the curtailment period. Agencies may allow employees to use LWOP, if requested, to cover the period. (Emphasis added)

6.The Comptroller General has consistently held that an employee may be placed in an annual leave status without his consent in all situations where the administrative office considers it desirable from an official standpoint that the employee not be continued in an active duty status. See 40 Comp. Gen. 312 (1960); 32 Comp. Gen 204 (1952); 28 Comp. Gen. 526 (1949); and 19 Comp. Gen. 955 (1940). Likewise, that portion of the Employer's proposal allowing employees to be advanced annual leave to cover the period of holiday shutdown is consistent with the ruling in 31 Comp. Gen. 581 (1952).

7.The current agreement between the Employer and Local 1, International Association of Tool Craftsmen, contains a provision which allows the Employer to require the use of up to 40 hours of annual leave per year during shutdown periods. Local 1 represents a unit of approximately 35 Wage Grade employees in the tool and die making trade who are physically located within Rock Island Arsenal.

8.Holiday shutdowns occurred in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1990. During these periods, employees were required to use annual leave or LWOP. Moreover, the Employer points out that on an annual basis, the arsenal's foundry is closed for scheduled maintenance; during that period, which usually occurs during the summer months, em