DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE CINCINNATI SUB-REGIONAL OFFICE CINCINNATI, OHIO and LOCAL 2660, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION

  SERVICE

CINCINNATI SUB-REGIONAL OFFICE

CINCINNATI, OHIO

and

LOCAL 2660, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 93 FSIP 219

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 2660, 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 Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Cincinnati Sub-Regional Office, Cincinnati, Ohio (Employer).

    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 November 17, 1993, at the INS offices in Cincinnati, Ohio. At that meeting, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the outstanding issues. Mr. Jones has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer administers and enforces the immigration laws of the United States. The Union represents 21 General Schedule (GS) employees who are members of a 9,400-member nationwide consolidated bargaining unit. Representative occupations include immigration examiner, special agent, applications clerk, contact representative, and criminal investigator; employees range in grade from GS-5 through -13. The parties are covered by the national collective-bargaining agreement between the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the National Immigration and Naturalization Service Council of the American Federation of Government Employees; that contract expired in August 1993, but remains in effect pending implementation of a successor.

ISSUES

    The parties disagree over the use of existing office space in the area which the Employer controls in the Federal Building in downtown Cincinnati.

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

(1) Room #1 will be occupied by a bargaining-unit immigration examiner, with a partition installed, with the balance of the office space used for storage of files; in addition, a window will be installed, allowing the examiner to be observed from the hallway outside; (2) the applications clerk will be moved to Room #2, which is currently used as a lunch and break room; should a second applications clerk be hired, that employee will also be assigned to Room #2; (3) Room #3 will be used exclusively for investigations and interviews; as an alternative proposal, it would also be used as a lunch and break room, except when operational needs take priority; and (4) there will be no change in the status of Room #4, which will continue to be occupied exclusively by the supervisory immigration examiner.

Moving the applications clerk to Room #2 and keeping the supervisory immigration examiner in Room #4 is the best plan since the supervisory examiner interacts frequently with the unit examiners. Also, Room #2 is too isolated for the supervisor, as it is located across the hall. Since the Employer plans to hire a second applications clerk, assigning both clerks to Room #2 would be practical because it would allow the new clerk to be trained by the incumbent. Assigning Room #1 to an immigration examiner, with a partitioned space provided for files, should allow the examiner to conduct private interviews and perform research with only minimal distractions; in addition, installing a window should provide enhanced security and is consistent with the design of the other immigration examiner offices. Since Room #4 is immediately adjacent to the office occupied by the assistant officer in charge, retention of that space by the supervisory examiner is preferable; in this regard, the walls are thin and a physical buffer between upper management and unit employees is necessary to prevent unit employees from overhearing confidential discussions. The option of allowing Room #3 to be used as a break room, with operational needs taking priority, preserves a space for employee breaks, while recognizing that special agents require a private interrogation room on occasion.

    The Union's proposal fails to consider the need for close interaction between the immigration examiners and their supervisor. Moreover, total elimination of the lunch and break room is likely to have a negative impact on employee morale. Furthermore, the proposal disregards the need for a physical buffer between upper management and bargaining-unit employees. Overall, the Union's plan would not allow for an efficient working relationship between unit examiners and their supervisor.

2. The Union's Position

The Union's proposal is as follows:

(1) Room #1 will be retained as the app