DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION SAN RAFAEL DISTRICT OFFICE SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA AND LOCAL 3172, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN  

  SERVICES

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

SAN RAFAEL DISTRICT OFFICE

SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA

AND

LOCAL 3172, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 93 FSIP 25

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3172, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (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 Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, San Rafael District Office, San Rafael, California (Employer or SSA).

    Following investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, concerning the facility's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties, with the Panel to take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure and the Panel has considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer provides service to the public with respect to the administration of Social Security benefit and entitlement programs. The Union represents approximately 18 employees at the San Rafael District Office who are part of a nationwide consolidated unit consisting of approximately 48,000. Employees in the office hold such positions as claims representative, service representative, and claims development clerk. The parties are covered by a national collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) which expired on January 25, 1993, but continues to be honored until a new one is implemented. The dispute arose during negotiations concerning the relocation of the District Office from the second to the first floor of the same building.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The issue is whether the ventilation rate at the new location should be increased from 5 to 10 cubic feet per minute(1) (CFM) of outside air per person.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union's Position

    In essence, the Union proposes that the Employer provide a ventilation rate of 10 CFM. In this regard, the current 5 CFM rate provided for in the lease is insufficient and unhealthy. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends a rate of 20 CFM for office space;(2) the SSA Health and Safety manual recommends the same. The Employer relied on an "antiquated standard" from an old lease; all new leases for SSA relocations (except for the San Rafael District Office) require no less than 10 CFM. According to the Internal Revenue Service, which is to occupy the previous SSA space on the second floor, it has secured a lease requiring 20 CFM. Additionally, "lack of fresh air circulation is the most common problem associated with Sick Building Syndrome" and "employees should not suffer because the General Services Administration erred in lowering the fresh air circulation when they entered into a new lease." Further, the relocation occurred in December 1992, so it is too early to receive documented complaints from employees concerning any problems associated with the HVAC system.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer basically proposes that the current minimum of 5 CFM of outside air per person provided for in the lease agreement between GSA and the landlord should be maintained, and that the Union should withdraw its proposal. The parties' CBA already requires that the Employer provide a safe and healthy work environment and abate unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. Furthermore, ASHRAE standards are "voluntary guidelines;" nevertheless, the "GSA lease follows ASHRAE Indoor Air Quality Procedures rather than the Ventilation Rate Standard." Additionally, SSA has a no smoking policy in its occupied space which further ensures a high level of air quality. Since there have been no problems associated with the HVAC system to date, and the lease is in compliance with Federal regulations, it should not be required to expend $12,500, as estimated by the landlord, to raise the ventilation rate from 5 to 10 CFM. Finally, there is no evidence supporting the Union's allegation that SSA has adopted a higher ventilation standard for new leases.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we conclude that the Union should withdraw its proposal. In our view, it has failed to demonstrate a need to change the current ventilation rate of 5 CFM. While the Union indicates that SSA has adopted a new standard regarding ventilation rates, the record fails to support such an allegation. Further, since no complaints have been made in the San Rafael District Office, before or after the relocation, regarding indoor air quality, we believe that it would be unwise at this juncture to order the Employer to expend funds for a change that appears to be unnecessary. Additionally, the Employer is in compliance with the minimum Federal rate, and we believe that the abatement procedure in the parties' CBA adequately protects employees should any problems arise in the future.

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 proceedings instituted pursuant to 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 Union shall withdraw its proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

April 7, 1993

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Under General Services Administration (GSA) regulati