DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA and CHAPTER 224, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
|In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
AND HUMAN SERVICES
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS
CHAPTER 224, NATIONAL TREASURY
Case No. 93 FSIP 39
DECISION AND ORDER
Chapter 224, National Treasury Employees Union (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 (SSA), Office of Hearings and Appeals, Indianapolis, Indiana (Employer or OHA).
After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with Panel Chairman Edwin D. Brubeck for the purpose of resolving the dispute over parking and telephone monitoring.(1) The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Mr. Brubeck 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. Brubeck met with the parties on May 4, 1993, in Indianapolis, Indiana, but the parties were unable to reach a settlement.(2) He has reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties, and it has now considered the entire record.
The Employer, 1 of 96 OHA hearing offices nationwide, is responsible for adjudicating appeals of denials of retirement, survivors, medicare, disability, black lung, and supplemental security income claims, and defending its appellate decisions before the Federal courts. The Union represents approximately 450, GS-9 through -12, OHA attorney-advisors nationwide. Only those 11 stationed in the Indianapolis hearing office are affected by this dispute. The parties are covered by a national agreement which expired on May 31, 1992, but remains in effect until a successor is implemented.
The dispute arose during negotiations over the relocation of the Employer's offices from the Old Federal Building to the Market Square Center (the Gold Building), located 4 blocks south in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The office move was completed on December 7, 1992. At the former location, neither a parking subsidy nor free on-site parking was provided to employees by the Employer.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over whether the Employer should provide bargaining-unit employees with subsidized parking.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes: (1) to "conduct a survey to determine what public parking is available within the immediate vicinity of the [h]earing [o]ffice," and notify employees of its findings; and (2) (a) to "attempt" to negotiate a favorable parking rate with parking vendors located nearby, and, if successful, (b) to provide employees, upon request, a letter certifying their employment for presentation to parking vendors offering such rate. It is unable to pay for employees' parking, however, because it lacks the funds to do so, and would be acting contrary to national SSA policy. In this regard, it is currently operating under severe budget constraints which have already curtailed hiring of new employees, overtime, and travel, while its workload continues to increase. If it pays some of the parking expenses of the 11 bargaining-unit employees, as the Union proposes, it most likely would also have to do so for the other 55 employees in the office, the majority of whom are represented by another union, adding further to its financial burden. Employees at other OHA hearing offices, for example, Peoria, Evanston, Dayton, Evansville, Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids, were not provided a parking subsidy following relocation, nor was a subsidy or free on-site parking provided to employees at the former location. Finally, free on-street parking remains available to employees at the new location.
2. The Union's Position
The Union proposes that the Employer "minimize the impact of the relocation on the availability of free parking by obtaining sufficient reserved parking space in the adjacent parking garage at the new location[,] for which employees will pay no more than $35 per month." The Employer should pay a portion of employees' parking expenses because there are fewer free on-street parking spaces available to employees in close proximity to the current office location than there were at the former one. For employees to access the same on-street parking as before, they must walk an additional 4 blocks. The longer walk increases commuting time, and raises greater personal security and health and safety concerns, particularly during wintertime. To avoid the problems and inconveniences associated with the longer walk, employees must park in nearby facilities at a cost of $60 to $90 per month, depending on whether the facility is located next to the office or 2 blocks away. Even for the five unit employees who used to pay for parking at the former location, this amounts to an approximately $17 per month increase.
After examining the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the parties should adopt a compromise provision which requires the parties, within 30 days of receipt of this Decision and Order, first to survey rates charged at parking facilities convenient to the office, and then to meet to decide with which of those facilities the Employer shall negotiate a group rate for interested employees. We believe it is reasonable to give employees, through their Union, a say in selecting the parking facilities with which management will negotiate. Whatever the rate negotiated, however, employees shall continue to be responsible for paying their own parking costs. We are not convinced they should receive a parking subsidy in any amount given their current circumstances, that is, the continued availability of free on-street parking, albeit not as conveniently located as before. In our view, neither the additional 4-block walk, nor the increase of $17 in monthly parking expenses for those employees who (1) elect to drive to work and (2) have always paid to park, justifies any change from the status quo.
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