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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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