DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY NAVAL AVIATION DEPOT NAVAL AIR STATION ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA AND LODGE 1584, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, AFL-CIO, CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE OF MACHINISTS AND DISTRICT NO. 115

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

NAVAL AVIATION DEPOT

NAVAL AIR STATION

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA

AND

LODGE 1584, INTERNATIONAL

ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND

AEROSPACE WORKERS, AFL-CIO,

CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE OF

MACHINISTS AND DISTRICT NO. 115

Case No. 94 FSIP 029

DECISION AND ORDER

    Lodge 1584, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, California Conference of Machinists and District No. 115 (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses 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 the Navy, Naval Aviation Depot, Naval Air Station, Alameda, California (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse concerning use of radios in the workplace should be resolved through 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 now considered the entire record.(1)

BACKGROUND

    The Employer, the Naval Aviation Depot, a tenant activity at the Naval Air Station, operates a large industrial facility for the overhaul and repair of airplanes to support the fleet. The Union represents 1,600 bargaining-unit employees located in many of the 89 buildings at the facility. They work beside employees represented by five other unions, mainly as mechanics, WG-6 to -13, and production controllers, GS-7 and -9. Since 1984, the parties' collective bargaining agreement has been extended annually.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    Essentially, the parties disagree over whether bargaining-unit employees should be permitted to use radios at the workplace.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes that radios be banned at all times throughout the workplace. It claims that because of "the highly industrialized environment the use of . . . radios has always been forbidden" [emphasis added]. Employees take their lunch breaks on the shop floor at staggered times near "[h]ighly complex . . . machinery and equipment [that] are operated . . . literally at all times." In this environment, radios could create shock hazards and employees might trip on electrical cords. Furthermore, employees distracted by listening to radios might not hear important messages broadcast over the intercom and warning alarms. Finally, disputes between employees might erupt over programs selected and volume levels set.

2. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes that bargaining-unit employees be permitted to listen to radios before the workday begins, when they are on breaks and at lunch, and during other nonwork periods such as power failures. Although existing policy forbids the wearing of portable headphones, earphones, or other listening devices by employees who are driving, bicycling, jogging, walking, or skating on the grounds of the Naval Aviation Depot, "employees have been allowed to listen to radios for at least some 20-plus years." The Union was backed into negotiating over changes to the radio policy "after the fact," when the Employer implemented the ban just before an inspection in early 1992. As a result, for the last several years radio listening virtually stopped. Over the entire 20-year period, however, no accidents or drops in productivity related to radio use occurred, nor could the Employer substantiate such claims when asked. On the positive side, radio listening during personal time can help reduce stress which has increased since the facility's closing was announced.(2)

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude that they should adopt a modified version of the Union's proposal to resolve the dispute. Under this provision, bargaining-unit employees would be permitted to listen to battery-operated radios(3) without or with a single earphone before starting work and during break and lunch periods; a reminder shall also be added to ensure that radios are used in a courteous manner and played at a low volume. In our view, the Employer has not demonstrated a need for a total ban. In this regard, the record supports the Union's position that until recently employees used radios regardless of what the official Navy policy might have been. Furthermore, the Union indicates, and the Employer does not challenge, that there were no safety-related accidents reported during negotiations. We also note that the Employer mentions none in its written submission. While the Employer's safety-related concerns appear speculative, common sense dictates that electrical cords might create problems in this industrial workplace. For this reason, our order specifies that only battery-operated radios may be used. Permitting the use of one or no earphones should enable employees to hear messages that the Employer broadcasts over the intercom. Finally, we agree with the Union that listening to radios during personal time may help to reduce stress.

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:

Employees will be permitted to listen to battery-operated radios with no or single earphone before starting work and during break and lunch periods. Radios are to be used in a courteous manner and p