DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEPENDENTS SCHOOLS ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA AND OVERSEAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, NEA (FACTFINDER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS IN PDF ATTACHMENT)

 

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEPENDENTS

  SCHOOLS

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

AND

OVERSEAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, NEA

Case No. 93 FSIP 6

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Overseas Education Association, NEA (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 Defense (DOD), Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Alexandria, Virginia (DODDS or Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, which concerned numerous issues arising from a variety of bargaining contexts, the Panel initially determined that the parties should resume negotiations on a concentrated schedule, with the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, in an effort to settle their dispute.(1) Following notification from the Union that such efforts failed to result in a voluntary settlement, the Panel then determined that the dispute be directed to private factfinding.(2) Under this procedure, the designated factfinder's fees and related expenses were to be shared equally by the parties. After receipt of the factfinder's report, which was to contain recommendations for settlement that were supported by rationale, the parties were to advise the Panel as to whether or not they were acceptable. The parties were also notified that once the Panel received the factfinder's report, and the parties' responses thereto, it would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse.

    On January 10 through 12, 1994, a hearing was held before Factfinder Charles Feigenbaum in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia. A stenographic record was made, testimony and argument were presented, and documentary evidence was submitted. A number of the issues in dispute were resolved during the course of the hearing. In accordance with the Panel's procedural determination, on April 2, 1994, the Factfinder issued his Report and Recommendations for settlement regarding the issues which remained at impasse.(3) The parties' responses to his recommendations were also received by the Panel pursuant to its procedural determination. Subsequently, a telephone conference was held between the parties and a Panel representative in which the number of issues at impasse was further reduced to the three which remain. The Panel has now considered the entire record in the case, including the stenographic record made at the hearing. The Factfinder's Report and Recommendations is attached to this Decision and Order.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to provide a high quality education for eligible minor dependents of military and civilian employees of DOD stationed overseas. The Union represents approximately 8,400 employees, who are mainly classroom teachers. The bargaining unit also includes school psychologists, instructors, guidance counselors, and school nurses. The Union represents employees in three of the five regions within DODDS: the Atlantic, Germany, and Pacific regions. The parties' collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) has been extended annually since its original September 1992 expiration date.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over the Factfinder's recommendations involving: (1) the jurisdictional question of whether the Employer is obligated to negotiate concerning Union facilities (office space, parking space, and equipment); (2) the extent, if any, to which the transfer program should be expanded to include the filling of midyear vacancies; and (3) the pertinent qualification standards for employees applying for vacancies under the transfer program.

1. Jurisdictional Question Regarding Union Facilities

    a. The Employer's Position

    The Panel should adopt the Factfinder's recommended determination that the Employer is under no obligation to negotiate over the Union's proposals concerning Union facilities because the subject is neither an impact-and-implementation (I&I) nor a midterm matter. In this regard, the Factfinder essentially concluded that the issue "does not meet the test for I&I bargaining set out by the D.C. Circuit"(4) (FF. Rep. at 10), and the Union "waived its right" to negotiate the matter midterm by virtue of the fact that it was "specifically addressed during negotiations which led to the [current] contract between the parties" (FF. Rep. at 11).

    b. The Union's Position

    The Union disagrees with the Factfinder's jurisdictional determination regarding Union facilities. The Factfinder's view that "there was no difference between the union proposals" in Department of Justice and the proposals in the instant case is erroneous because "precisely the opposite management decision is at issue here." Unlike Department of Justice, where "the agency decision involved the decentralization of management," the Employer's decision to centralize its personnel functions in Washington, D.C., "demands that the unit employees, all of whom are likely to be adversely affected, be assisted through the provision of a Union office space." Accordingly, the Union "requests that its proposal be accepted."

CONCLUSIONS

    Having examined the Factfinder's rationale and the parties' positions on the jurisdictional question raised by the Employer, we conclude that the Union has provided no basis for disturbing his recommendation on the issue. Accordingly, we shall order its adoption.

2. Midyear Vacancies

    a. The Employer's Position

    Essentially, the Employer proposes that the Panel not include the Factfinder's recommendation regarding midyear vacancies in the parties' transfer program agreement.(5) The transfer program was never intended to be used as a vehicle for filling midyear vacancies, but instead was meant to promote employee movement into and out of remote or hardship areas the following school year. Under the recommendation, however, the transfer program's selection criteria would apply throughout the year to advertised vacancies "without regard to whether an acceptable replacement was available to fill in behind the employee who was required to be selected" using the criteria. This could result in movement midyear of teachers out of remote areas where a qualified replacement has not been identified ahead of time. Management would then be faced with having no qualified replacement to teach the children, or having to select inferior candidates from outside sources. This would "promote educational disruption and produce a negative impact on children and the instruction they receive." It also would increase unnecessarily the transportation costs associated with moving teachers to locations around the world. Finally, the recommendation would limit management's flexibility to: (1) consider equal employment opportunity factors when filling vacancies, and (2) use directed reassignments in circumstances where a particular employee has attributes, such as experience in extracurricular activities, beyond the basic qualifications for a position which may not be found in the employee identified for selection if the transfer program's selection criteria were to be used.

    b. The Union's Position

    The Union "agrees with the Factfinder that midyear vacancies will not normally be part of the transfer program except in circumstances when the vacancy is advertised." In this regard, there is a perception among bargaining-unit employees that personal favoritism sometimes plays a role in the filling of midyear vacancies. Use of the transfer program selection criteria would ensure that positions are filled fairly and equitably. Accordingly, the Panel should order the adoption of the Factfinder's recommendation.

CONCLUSIONS

    Upon careful review of the record concerning the midyear vacancy issue, we shall order the adoption of a modified version of the Factfinder's recommendation to resolve the parties' dispute. Preliminarily, we note that use of the selection criteria under the recommendation would be limited to situations where the Employer has decided to advertise to fill a midyear vacancy. This generally means that it has already failed in its attempts to fill the position locally, through a returning employee with reemployment rights, or with a Continental U.S. recruit.(6) Moreover, although the Employer was unable to provide precise figures, in recent years very few midyear vacancies have been advertised due to ongoing DOD downsizing and the priority placed on finding positions for "surplus" employees. Thus, the Factfinder's recommendation appears to represent a modest expansion of the transfer program to include the filling of a small number of midyear vacancies under very specific conditions.

    We are nevertheless persuaded, however, that the Employer has raised legitimate concerns regarding educational disruptions which might occur were the recommendation to be adopted as written. For this reason, it shall be modified to include wording which requires the Employer to transfer the employee selected using the transfer program criteria only if the employee's principal has certified that a suitable replacement is available. It is our understanding that such wording merely memorializes the Employer's current practice when filling midyear vacancies. We shall also add wording intended to clarify the parties' understanding that the selection criteria would apply only when vacancies are advertised worldwide. Overall, these modifications should enhance customer service, mission accomplishment, and the quality of work life, in keeping with the good government standard, by striking an appropriate balance between the parties' interests: the Union's in ensuring that midyear vacancies are filled using objective criteria, and the Employer's in minimizing the negative impact that expanded use of the transfer program could have on its ability to provide a high quality education to the minor dependents of personnel stationed overseas.

3. Qualification Standards

    a. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes that the Panel order the adoption of the Factfinder's recommendation.(7) Basically, it represents an acceptable compromise between the wording in the existing transfer program,(8) and the position of the Union. Moreover, as it acknowledged at the factfinding hearing, wording which encompasses the qualification standards for the past 3 years on a "rolling basis" is the existing practice.

    b. The Union's Position

    The Union opposes the Factfinder's recommendation, and proposes that "a unit employee may apply in any one or more of the categories for which he or she is qualified." Such wording would be useful to bargaining-unit employees for informational purposes. Under its proposal, for transfer program purposes the contract would remain silent concerning qualification standards. Instead, the parties would rely on existing regulations permitting employees to apply for transfers as long as they meet the pertinent qualification standards for vacancies set in School Year (SY) 1988-89. Employees who only meet SY 1988-89 qualification standards could continue to apply for vacancies under the transfer program while the parties attempt to resolve the matter by negotiating changes in the existing regulation. Its position is also consistent with Article 31 ("Tuition Assistance") of the current CBA, which in certain circumstances gives employees more than 3 years to meet new qualification standards.

    The Factfinder failed to understand the nature of the parties' dispute on this subject when he issued his recommendation. Historically, the Employer acknowledged the unfairness of the existing contract wording when it issued its current regulation. At t