DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE CLEVELAND DISTRICT OFFICE CLEVELAND, OHIO AND NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
|In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
CLEVELAND DISTRICT OFFICE
NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
Case No. 93 FSIP 139
DECISION AND ORDER
The Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Cleveland District Office, Cleveland, Ohio (Employer or IRS), 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 National Treasury Employees Union (Union or NTEU).
After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, concerning the length of time that Revenue Officer (RO) sign-out sheets should be retained, should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties, with the Panel limited to selecting either of the parties' final offers, to the extent the proposals were otherwise lawful. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure and the Panel has now considered the entire record.
The Employer's mission is to enforce the U.S. tax code. The Union represents approximately 900 professional and nonprofessional employees in a nationwide consolidated unit of 50,000. The parties' master agreement (known as NORD III) expires on June 30, 1994. The dispute arose during negotiations over the implementation of a uniform sign-out sheet for approximately 110 ROs located within IRS's Cleveland District.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over whether the form should be retained for a maximum of 1 year or 60 days.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes that the sign-out sheets "be retained for 1 year." This would: (1) standardize procedures within the Cleveland District and maintain "consistency with similar records retention schedules," (2) help managers "determine how effectively and efficiently" ROs are using their field time by providing "a tool for trend analysis," and (3) ensure employee accountability to the public. Trends in individual use of field time are easier to spot if sheets are retained for longer durations. Other currently available sources of information do not capture the time of day that an RO signed out. In fact, "no other method of recording office and field time gives management this information." The information needs to be retained for at least a year "so that a manager can counsel the employee, particularly with respect to annual appraisals." Moreover, the retention of sign-out sheets for longer than 2-months was "critical" in its past investigations of disciplinary and adverse action cases within the Cleveland District, and could also help vindicate ROs if allegations of misuse or misconduct arise. Finally, the Examinations Division currently retains sign-out logs for discussing field utilization and time management for a 2-year period, and the Union has identified no harmful effects from the practice.
2. The Union's Position
The Union proposes that sign-out sheets "be retained by IRS management for no longer than 60 days after" their date.(1) The Employer's proposal for a 1-year retention period is unconnected to the original reason it gave for requiring ROs to indicate sign-out times on the sheets.(2) Given the Employer's newly-surfaced concerns, however, a 60-day retention period would be fairer to ROs while providing management with adequate additional documentation in performance and conduct cases. In this regard, 60 days is greater than or equal to the sign-out sheet retention practice of 6 of the 12 Collection Division groups. Moreover, "it is unlikely that a manager would use sign-out sheets to analyze patterns of usage" or for performance documentation, as the Employer suggests, because information for the purpose of monitoring employees' field activities "is available from other sources." Should a manager wish to do so, however, its final offer is consistent with the performance appraisal provisions in NORD III which require supervisors to share performance documentation with an employee within 30 days of its development.
Any discrepancies between alternative sources of information and the sign-out sheets may be easily explainable if they are brought to the attention of the RO within a reasonable period of time, but up to a year could go by under the Employer's final offer. In such circumstances, ROs cannot be expected to explain such discrepancies unless they protect themselves with burdensome diaries "accounting for such things as traffic jams, cancelled appointments, unusually long interviews," etc. The Employer's final offer, therefore, either creates "unnecessary record keeping" or "the potential for abuse," and should not be adopted. As to the Employer's contention that sign-out sheets have been a "critical component" of disciplinary actions within the Cleveland District, the Union "is unaware of any cases in which sign-out sheets were a significant, let alone a determining, factor."
After considering the evidence and arguments presented on this issue, we conclude that the Employer's final offer should be adopted to resolve the parties' dispute. While the overwhelming number of ROs in the unit undoubtedly deserve and enjoy the public's full faith and confidence, we see no basis in the record for denying management an additional means of monitoring their field activities to ensure that such trust continues. In this regard, the sign-out sheets currently appear to be the only documents which can definitively confirm when an RO has left the Employer's facility to meet with a taxpayer. Their retention for a 1-year period should permit the Employer to determine if travel patterns suggest irregularities in the use of field time, and whether appropriate remedial action is warranted. Moreover, the potential for abuse cited by the Union in support of its final offer appears to be speculative. Finally, although the record provides an insufficient basis for concluding that 1 year is the perfect retention period, given the final-offer selection procedure, we are persuaded it is preferable to the one proposed by the Union. For these reasons, we shall order the adoption of the Employer's final offer.