NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION GEORGE C. MARSHALL SPACE FLIGHT CENTER MARSHALL SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, ALABAMA AND LOCAL 3434, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE

  ADMINISTRATION

GEORGE C. MARSHALL SPACE

  FLIGHT CENTER

MARSHALL SPACE FLIGHT CENTER,

  ALABAMA

AND

LOCAL 3434, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case Nos. 93 FSIP 216 and 93 FSIP 230

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3434, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO (Union), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama (Employer) filed separate requests 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. The cases were consolidated since both concerned the same issue.

    After investigation of the requests for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved through an informal conference between a Panel representative and the parties. If no settlement were reached, the Panel representative was to notify the Panel of the status of the dispute; the notification would include the final offers of the parties and the representative's recommendations for resolving the matter. Following consideration of this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Pursuant to the Panel's determination, Staff Associate Nick G. Duris met with the parties on November 9, 1993, at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. During the informal conference, the parties were able to resolve all but one issue. Mr. Duris has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to be pre-eminent in the development and application of space transportation and propulsion systems to provide the Nation with safe, assured access to space. The Union represents a bargaining unit of approximately 960 employees who hold positions such as clerk, secretary, technician, program analyst and contract analyst. The parties' collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) expired in May 1992, but continues to be honored until a new one is implemented.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree about the amount of official time to be granted to the Union president, officers, and stewards.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes that the status quo be maintained. In its view, this means that the Union president would continue to receive up to 25 percent of weekly time "to engage in authorized representational activity," with additional official time being extended in unusual circumstances such as required attendance at arbitration hearings, hearings conducted under the auspices of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, or a major reduction in force. Moreover, Union representatives, including the president, would also be entitled to a "reasonable amount of time off" to represent bargaining-unit employees. There is no need to change the existing practice as the "reasonable time" standard has always provided Union officers and stewards with sufficient time for representational duties. Any cap on official time would limit its flexibility and "imperil the Union and the unit employees" that it represents, at a time of increasing Union activity. Finally, spreading Union work among its stewards is not a practical option since steward involvement "waxes and wanes" and "the brunt of all representation" has fallen on two employees.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

The AFGE President is authorized to use up to 50 percent of weekly time to engage in authorized representational activities. One other AFGE officer is authorized to use up to 35 percent of weekly time to engage in authorized representational activities. All other AFGE officers and stewards are authorized to use up to 20 percent of weekly time to engage in authorized representational activities. There will be no "double time" for representatives holding dual positions (e.g., an AFGE representative serving as Vice-President and as a steward cannot combine the official time percentages authorized for these positions). There will be no carry over of time authorized for any AFGE representative. The parties understand and agree that time spent by AFGE representatives on midterm/impact-and-implementation bargaining is covered by and included in the official time percentages authorized under this section. The official time percentage authorizations under this section will be extended for required attendance at a hearing/meeting conducted by a non-NASA third party (e.g., Federal Labor Relations Authority/Federal Service Impasses Panel, Merit Systems Protection Board, an arbitrator), a major reduction-in-force, renegotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or the Ground Rules negotiations for the renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A change in the status quo is necessary because existing official time practices have become a source of repeated litigation. In this regard, in the past 6 months alone the Union has filed 5 unfair labor practice charges and 10 grievances centering around the interpretation of "reasonable" official time and official time limitations on the AFGE president. The amount of official time it has proposed, with its list of exclusions, "strikes a reasonable balance between work requirements of the Agency and the representational requirements of the Union." Furthermore, the decrease in the overall number of hours that its proposal would permit the Union president could be more than offset by spreading representational duties among the Union's stewards.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we shall order the adoption of the Employer's proposal. In this regard, we are persuaded that the Employer has demonstrated a need to change the status quo. Although no contract may be grievance-proof, its proposal