DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS ARMAMENT, MUNITIONS, AND CHEMICAL COMMAND ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS and LOCAL 15, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

HEADQUARTERS

ARMAMENT, MUNITIONS, AND CHEMICAL

  COMMAND

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL

ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS

and

LOCAL 15, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Case No. 93 FSIP 218

 

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Department of the Army, Headquarters, Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, Illinois (Employer), and Local 15, National Federation of Federal Employees (Union), filed a joint 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.

    After investigation of the request 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 Harry E. Jones met with the parties on September 29, 1993, at Rock Island, Illinois. At that meeting, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the one outstanding issue. Mr. Jones has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer is the worldwide manager (purchaser, manufacturer, and distributor) of armament, munitions, and chemicals for the Department of the Army. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 2,800 nonprofessional General Schedule employees who range in grade from GS-2 through -14. The parties' collective-bargaining agreement expired in November 1992, but remains in effect pending the implementation of a successor.

ISSUE

    The single issue in dispute is the starting time for employees on flexitime and 5-4/9 work schedules.(1)

1. The Union's Position

    The Union's proposal is as follows:

Start Times: AWS -- 0630 to 0830; Flexitime -- 0600 to 830. 

If an employee elects AWS, the tour start time is no earlier than 0630. In so choosing AWS, the employee forfeits the right to return to a flexitime schedule beginning at 0600. 

If an employee elects flexitime, the tour start time is no earlier than 0600. If an employee submits a formal written schedule change (AMCCOM Form 239-R) past 0630, the employee forfeits the right to return to an 0600 start time.

This proposal would require those employees who select the 5-4/9 option to begin work between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. while allowing those who elect to remain on a 5-day per week, 8-hour per day schedule, with flexitime, to begin work between 6 and 8:30 a.m. Currently, approximately 25 percent of employees start before 6:30 a.m. Since some of those employees are likely to elect the 5-4/9 option, they would forfeit the right to return to an earlier start time if they subsequently return to a flexitime schedule. Also, since some employees who elect to continue on the latrter type of schedule may, at some point, change to a starting time of 6:30 a.m. or later, those employees would also forfeit the right to return to a 6 a.m. start time. Through this process, combined with normal attrition, all employees would eventually have a starting time of 6:30 a.m. or later. This "grandfather" approach is fair, given that some employees carpool with other Rock Island workers who start at 6 a.m. In addition, the earlier start time is beneficial to the Employer since employees interact with customers in a wide range of time zones. Overall, the proposal balances the interests of the Employer with those of employees who have come to rely on a 12-year practice.

    The Employer's proposal fails to recognize that employees have had the option of starting work at 6 a.m. since 1981 and that there has been no adverse impact on the mission. Moreover, many employees have structured carpool and dependent care arrangements around the 6 a.m. start time; a change to 6:30 a.m. would have a disruptive effect on employees' personal lives. A 6-month grandfather period is not adequate, given that the benefits which may accrue to the Employer are merely speculative. Furthermore, the 6-year-old study relied on by the Employer to demonstrate reduced productivity during unsupervised work time lacks credibility, as no description of the methodology is provided; in this regard, the document containing the results appears to be more of an opinion rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the flexitime program. Generally speaking, the Employer's plan is overly disruptive and is likely to have a negative impact on employee morale.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

Start Times: AWS -- 0630 to 0830; Flexitime -- 0600 to 0830. 

If an employee elects AWS, the tour start time is no earlier than 0630. In so choosing AWS, the employee forfeits the right to return to a flexitime schedule beginning at 0600. 

If an employee elects flexitime, the tour start time is no earlier than 0600. If an employee submits a formal written schedule change (AMCCOM Form 239-R) past 0630, the employee forfeits the right to return to an 0600 start time. If an employee elects flexitime, start time is 0600 to 0830 for a period not to exceed 6 months. If an employee elects a schedule change, the earliest start time must be 0630 and may not revert to 0600 or 0615.

Its proposal is identical to the Union's except for its last two sentences. Unlike the Union's proposal, its "grandfathering" of employees who remain on flexitime is limited to a 6-month period; after that, all employees would be required to begin work at 6:30 a.m. or later. A 6:30 a.m. start time is consistent with the start times of some employees at other installations with whom AMC employees frequently interact,(2) TECOM Aberdeen, Maryland 6:30 and is necessary to maximize the interaction between supervisors and front-line employees. Moreover, since some employees have greater expertise with certain types of products, having them available during more regular hours will have a beneficial impact on the overall mission. The proposal also provides a reasonable accommodation to unit employees to allow them to make the transition to a later starting time.

    Continuation of early start times, as proposed by the Union, may have a negative impact on the command's mission; in this vein, management studies conducted in 1987 and 1988 in one directorate demonstrate that unsupervised time is significantly less productive than supervised work time. In addition, given that the number of supervisors is shrinking, early start times may undermine the goal of maximizing interaction time between supervisors and front-line workers.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having examined the record on this issue, we conclude that a modified version of the Union's proposal provides the best resolution of the dispute. Preliminarily, we note that there is no disagreement between the parties as to the starting time for those employees who elect a 5-4/9 work schedule. In addition, any employee electing a 5-4/9 schedule would, under each party's proposal, forfeit the right to return to a starting time of 6 a.m. should the employee subsequently decide to return to a flexitime schedule. While we normally are reluctant to modify what the parties have apparently agreed on, in this case we believe it necessary to order wording which more clearly expresses the parties' intent as we understand it. In this regard, the parties' statements at the informal conference demonstrate that each side intended to require any employee electing the 5-4/9 option to forfeit the right to return to a starting time earlier than 6:30 a.m., including 6:15 a.m. Thus, we shall order wording prohibiting employees who return to a flexitime schedule from starting their workday prior to 6:30 a.m.

    With respect to those employees who choose to remain on a flexitime schedule, we agree that the Union's proposal, in principle, provides the more reasonable approach. Since a number of employees have structured their personal lives around an early starting time, we see no need to require employees to forfeit that benefit. Moreover, given that unit employees interact with customers in a wide variety of time zones, there may even be marginal benefit to the Employer in having some employees begin work as early as 6 a.m. In our view, its grandfather arrangement balances the interests of the Employer with those of employees, and should allow the Employer to eventually reach its goal of having all employees begin work at 6:30 a.m. or later. Consistent with our discussion above, however, we believe that the wording of this portion of the Union's proposal also is not consistent with its intent.  Accordingly, we shall order modified wording which will prohibit an employee who remains on flexitime from returning to a start time earlier than 6:30 a.m. if the employee changes his or her start time to later than that.

ORDER

    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 the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted pursuant to the Panel's regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6 (a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the following:

    The parties shall adopt the following wording:

If an employee elects a 5-4/9 schedule, the employee may select a tour start time from 0630 to 0830 in 15-minute increments. In so choosing a 5-4/9 schedule, the employee forfeits the right to return to a starting time of 0600 or 0615 should the employee subsequently decide to return to a schedule of 5 days per week, 8 hours per day, with flexitime. 

If an employee does not elect a 5-4/9 schedule, but instead chooses to remain on a schedule of 5 days per week, 8 hours per day, with flexitime, the employee may select a start time from 0600 to 0830 in 15-minute increments. If, however, an employee submits a formal written schedule change (AMCCOM Form 239-R) which changes his or her start time from 0600 or 0615 to 0630 or later, the employee forfeits the right to return to an 0600 or 0615 start time.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

December 3, 1993

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Under the previous agreement, which did not allow for the 5-4/9 option, employees on flexitime could begin work between 6 and 8:30 a.m. Under this arrangement, which has been in effect since 1981, an employee selects a start time within the flexband and remains on that schedule for a minimum of one pay period. Since starting times are staggered in 15-minute increments, an employee could elect to start at 6, 6:15, 6:30 a.m., etc.

2.The following information regarding start times was obtained by the Employer through an informal telephone survey:

 

MICOM Huntsville, Alabama 7:00
TACOM Detroit, Michigan 6:30
DESCOM Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 7:00
AMCCOM Washington, D.C. 6:30
CECOM