DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE NEW LONDON GROTON, CONNECTICUT and LOCAL R1-100, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
|In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE NEW LONDON
LOCAL R1-100, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU,
Case Nos. 93 FSIP 27
93 FSIP 28
DECISION AND ORDER
Local R1-100, National Association of Government Employees, SEIU, AFL-CIO (Union) filed two separate requests for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider negotiation impasses under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of the Navy, Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Connecticut (Employer).
After investigation of the requests for assistance, the Panel consolidated the cases and directed the parties to meet informally with Staff Associate Harry E. Jones in an attempt to resolve the issues in dispute. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Mr. Jones would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers, and his 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.
Mr. Jones met with the parties on April 20, 1993, in Groton, Connecticut, but the parties remained deadlocked. Mr. Jones has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.
The Employer is the home port for several submarines. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 700 nonprofessional employees who work in a variety of technical and administrative occupations. The parties' collective-bargaining agreement expired in April 1992, but remains in effect pending the implementation of a successor.
ISSUES AT IMPASSE
In Case No. 93 FSIP 27, the parties disagree over the implementation of the Employer's proposal regarding Direct Deposit/Electronic Funds Transfer (DD/EFT). In Case No. 93 FSIP 28, the dispute is over whether employees of the Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department should be placed on a 5-4/9 alternative work schedule (AWS).
I. Case No. 93 FSIP 27
a. The Employer's Position
The Employer has submitted a comprehensive proposal, which, among other things, would require that all newly-hired employees receive their pay through DD/EFT. Current employees would not be required to participate in the program unless they are "competitively promoted or reassigned, separated or reemployed, mobilized, or recalled to active military duty." Under the plan, an employee who otherwise would be required to participate may request a waiver of up to 1 year, subject to renewal, for reasons of "financial difficulty, financial irresponsibility, or other extenuating circumstances."
DD/EFT is a more economical and reliable system for delivering employees' pay, as it allows for centralized processing. In this regard, a Treasury Department study reveals that a single DD/EFT payment costs the Government 6 cents; by comparison, the cost to process a single paper paycheck, exclusive of the cost of tracking lost or stolen checks, is 36 cents. The program allows for immediate access to funds, upon transfer, and greater privacy of financial information, since transfers are handled by computer; in addition, participation in DD/EFT should not result in any cost to employees, as a number of local financial institutions, including two located on the base, do not charge fees for maintaining a checking account. Since no current employee would be required to participate unless competitively promoted or reassigned, employees would still retain the option of receiving a paper paycheck. Moreover, the waiver provision provides a reasonable accommodation for those individuals facing financial difficulties or other extenuating circumstances. Because DD/EFT may be mandatory in the not too distant future, failure to adopt the program at this point may only delay the inevitable.(1) Finally, the Employer contends that although the facts of this case are somewhat different, its proposal, nevertheless, contains built-in protections comparable to those required by the Panel previously in Department of the Air Force, Griffiss Air Force Base, Griffiss AFB, New York and Local 2612, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, Case No. 89 FSIP 206 (December 29, 1989), Panel Release No. 206.(2)
The Union's proposal, on the other hand, overlooks the fact that expanded participation in DD/EFT would result in a significant cost savings to the agency. Moreover, the Union's proposal ignores the advantages, as well as the protections, that would be provided to employees. Overall, the Union's approach is shortsighted, as it fails to accept the inevitability of the increased use of electronic transfers.
b. The Union's Position
The Union does not oppose DD/EFT for new hires, but proposes that the program remain voluntary for all current bargaining-unit employees. This would allow current employees to continue to receive a paper paycheck even if they accept a competitive promotion or reassignment. In the Union's view, the Employer's proposal is inconsistent with the requirements set forth in Griffiss Air Force Base, because there is no guarantee that DD/EFT will be cost-free. In addition, it is patently unfair to require participation in DD/EFT as a condition of accepting a competitive promotion or reassignment. Since some employees believe that the region's financial institutions are unstable, pressuring employees into DD/EFT participation is likely to have a negative impact on their morale.
Having considered the evidence and arguments on this issue, we conclude that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the Employer's proposal. While we recognize that some employees may view financial institutions with suspicion, we are convinced that the cost savings to the agency, which are likely to result from increased participation in the program, outweigh any minor inconvenience to employees. In reaching this conclusion, we note that no current employee will be required to participate in DD/EFT unless he or she is competitively promoted or reassigned. Moreover, since a number of local financial institutions offer cost-free checking accounts, employees who participate in the program should not suffer any financial penalties.(3) Furthermore, the waiver provision provides a reasonable accommodation to those employees who may be experiencing financial difficulties or who are affected by other extenuating circumstances. Overall, the Employer's proposal provides the more balanced approach to the issue, and, therefore, we shall order its adoption.
II. Case No. 93 FSIP 28
a. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes that the status quo be maintained, i.e., that the approximately 90 employees of the Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department continue to work a 5-day per week, 8-hour per day schedule. This would allow for a more efficient use of existing staff, which is necessary due to a reduction in the maintenance budget and an increase in the volume of repair work. Since the workforce has been reduced through attrition, primarily because of a hiring freeze implemented in 1990, the Maintenance Division is stretched too thin to support a compressed work schedule. During the 6-month period when an experimental 5-4/9 schedule was in place, the cost of overtime increased by 14 percent, and the average time to perform a service call increased by 1.04 hours. Its proposal would help decrease its dependence on private contractors, who are used to supplement the Maintenance Division workforce, while reducing the need to juggle work teams to contend with the constant demand for the Maintenance Division's services. Overall, while it has agreed to continue a 5-4/9 schedule in all other organizational components covered by the previous AWS agreement, a 5-4/9 work schedule in the Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department is simply not workable.
b. The Union's Position
The Union proposes that a 5-4/9 work schedule be reinstated for a 6-month trial period in the Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department under the same conditions as set forth in a prior AWS agreement. Implementation of this plan should have a positive impact on morale, as employees would have 3 days off every other week. It also would have a positive impact on productivity, as employees are likely to accomplish more work during a 9-hour workday than they would during a normal 8-hour day. The Employer places too little emphasis on the fact that budget cuts and a hiring freeze have caused the Maintenance Division workforce to shrink and that this problem will continue to exist, regardless of the type of work schedule. As a result, the payment of overtime and the use of private contractors will continue to be necessary.