DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY MORGANTOWN ENERGY TECHNOLOGY CENTER MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA AND LOCAL 1995, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

MORGANTOWN ENERGY TECHNOLOGY

  CENTER

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA

AND

LOCAL 1995, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 93 FSIP 192

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 1995, 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 Energy, Morgantown Energy Technology Center, Morgantown, West Virginia (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, which arose during negotiations over a successor agreement, 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 is engaged in research and development of processes for using fossil fuels that are efficient and nonpolluting. The Union represents 250 bargaining-unit employees who work as scientists, engineers, project managers for research contracts, and technicians. A successor collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was executed on September 11, 1992, for a 30-month period. The parties agreed to sever the issue at impasse in this case prior to executing their successor agreement. Their previous agreement was executed in 1979, and, through a rollover provision, remained in effect for over 13 years.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether either party should be permitted to reopen the contract unilaterally for mid-term negotiations.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes that the parties maintain the status quo, i.e., engage in impact-and-implementation bargaining over management-initiated changes and mid-term bargaining by mutual agreement. To reduce the need for a reopener, it agreed to a shorter term for the contract. A reopener is undesirable because it would promote continuous bargaining, foster bickering, and weaken the parties' relationship by injecting elements of uncertainty into their negotiated agreement. Besides, the extra costs associated with increasing the number of bargaining obligations are inconsistent with the concept of "an effective and efficient Government" found in 5 U.S.C. § 7101. Furthermore, a reopener is unnecessary since the parties made only three substantive changes to their prior agreement. Most of the remaining parts of the agreement have been in place for 14 to 15 years and are working well. The exception, an article on alternative work schedules, has its own reopener clause. Finally, neither the 17 contracts between the Department of Energy and other unions nor a sampling of other Federal sector agreements contain provisions with unilateral reopeners.

2. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes that either party be permitted to reopen the contract in two subject areas at mid-term.(1) This reopener, although more limited in scope than some, is similar to provisions in 333 Federal sector contracts covering approximately 608,843 employees. Granting such a reopener would equalize the parties' positions since either party could initiate negotiations should a problem or need arise; otherwise, the Employer probably would veto any mid-term bargaining that the Union proposes on subjects in the parties' CBA. In a similar vein, the agency head rejected a Union-initiated bargaining provision that the Panel ordered in a previous decision. Finally, despite the Employer's claims, the reopener is not likely to increase costs appreciably because it is limited to two areas, and unless a specific need arises, it might never actually be used.

CONCLUSIONS

    Based on the record before us, we conclude that the parties should adopt the Employer's proposal to resolve the dispute. Under the circumstances of this case, we find no demonstrated need for a unilateral reopener provision beyond whatever the parties already have included in their agreement. In this regard, the parties expended significant resources in a give-and-take process before reaching this agreement. Thus, unless the parties mutually agree to do otherwise, we believe that the results of their negotiating efforts should not be disturbed for the length of its term.(2) This should also ensure that the parties approach future contract negotiations in a manner well-prepared to solve actual problems and craft improvements. With respect to practices elsewhere, while the Union contends that reopener provisions are prevalent in Federal sector negotiated agreements, even if true, such contention is insufficient to persuade us that one should be imposed.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Servi