DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU RHODE ISLAND NATIONAL GUARD PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND and RHODE ISLAND CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU

RHODE ISLAND NATIONAL GUARD

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND

and

RHODE ISLAND CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION

OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS

Case No. 94 FSIP 35

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Rhode Island Chapter, Association of Civilian Technicians (ACT or 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 Defense, National Guard Bureau, Rhode Island National Guard, Providence, Rhode Island (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which arose during negotiations over a successor agreement and concerns the issue of work uniforms, 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 now considered the entire record.(1)

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to provide operational military units to support the Army and Air Force. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 340 employees, the vast majority of whom are civilian technicians,(2) who work at various installations throughout the State of Rhode Island; they perform maintenance work on military aircraft, weapons, and communication systems. As noted above, the parties are at impasse following negotiations for a successor agreement; the prior agreement expired in May 1989, but remains in effect at the present time.

ISSUES

    The parties disagree over a number of issues involving work uniforms.

1. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes the following:

ARTICLE XXVI -- ATTIRE. a. The Employer will provide five (5) sets of uniforms (three summer and two winter) which are normally required to be worn in each functional work area, to all bargaining unit personnel. The Employer will provide a direct exchange program for worn, torn, or clothing soiled too badly to be rendered clean and presentable in the performance of day-to-day duties. b. Uniforms issued to full-time bargaining-unit employees shall be separate [from], and in addition to, those issued to all Guard persons. c. All uniforms will be worn as issued by the Employer to each of the bargaining-unit employees. d. This agreement is contingent upon the prior mutual agreement of the parties identifying and establishing the necessary items of clothing which will constitute the required work uniform issue to be provided to each bargaining-unit employee. e. Employees required to wear a prescribed military uniform not presently furnished by the Employer will receive a uniform allowance equivalent to the cost of acquiring five sets of work uniforms, not to exceed $400 per annum.

Adoption of this proposal would require that the Employer provide five additional sets of uniforms to unit employees who are required to wear military clothing while on duty as civilian technicians.(3) Moreover, the proposed exchange program would allow employees to obtain replacement uniforms for those that are torn, worn, or badly soiled. That portion of the proposal requiring that employees wear uniforms "as issued by the Employer" should relieve them of any additional clothing requirements; also, the provision providing for further discussion as to what clothing items would be provided by the Employer should help clarify the parties' understanding and could reduce the overall cost to the Employer. The payment of a monetary uniform allowance to unit members who are warrant officers and commissioned officers is fair, as the Employer is prohibited, by regulation, from providing uniforms to these employees.(4) Finally, a contractual provision on the issue of clothing allowance and attire would subject noncompliance to the parties' grievance procedure.

    The Employer's proposal, on the other hand, fails to recognize that providing only four sets of work uniforms to employees requires them to launder them on a frequent basis because they become soiled during the course of the workday. Having only an exchange program would be inadequate since employees have experienced long delays (up to 4 weeks) before obtaining replacement items. In addition, the exchange program is unfair to some unit employees, as warrant officers and commissioned officers cannot participate. The monetary allowance proposed for these officers, which amounts to a total of $130 per year, is insufficient to cover the cost of replacement clothing. Overall, the Employer's proposal is lacking and does not provide an adequate benefit to unit employees.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer's proposal is as follows:

ARTICLE XXVI -- ATTIRE. Section 1. a. The Employer agrees to provide an initial issue of work uniforms to enlisted excepted technicians employed under a permanent appointment, based on initial clothing allowances for male and female personnel authorizations contained in applicable Army Common Table of Allowances or Air Force Regulation on uniform clothing allowances. This initial issue of clothing will only be made to those military technicians who have not been issued clothing as a member of the Rhode Island National Guard. b. The Employer further agrees to maintain a direct exchange program for enlisted excepted technicians for authorized work uniforms that become torn or too badly soiled to be rendered clean and presentable. Exchange will be based on criteria established by appropriate service (i.e., Army or Air Force). c. Replacement of lost, damaged, or destroyed uniforms for enlisted excepted technicians will be in accordance with applicable Army or Air Force directives. d. The Employer further agrees to provide enlisted excepted technicians patches and insignia required by applicable Army or Air Force directives. e. Patches and insignia, as required by applicable Army and Air Force directives, will be affixed to the military uniform of enlisted excepted technicians at no cost. f. The Employer further agrees to provide a biweekly basic clothing allowance of $5 to commissioned officers and warrant officers serving under a permanent appointment as an excepted technician and who are also members of the bargaining unit. Basic clothing allowances will begin in fiscal year subsequent to the signing of the agreement.

    Its proposal would continue the existing practice of providing an initial issuance of four sets of uniforms to enlisted excepted technicians in connection with their membership in the Rhode Island National Guard. The uniform exchange program would also be continued. The provision which requires the Employer to provide insignia and to affix them is fair and would relieve employees of this burden. In addition, a monetary clothing allowance for commissioned officers and warrant officers would provide some financial assistance to these employees who are prohibited from receiving uniforms. Overall, the proposal provides clothing benefits which are more generous than those provided to active duty military personnel(5) and is reasonable, given the Employer's budgetary constraints.

    That portion of the Union's proposal which would require the parties to continue discussions over the clothing items to be provided is nonnegotiable, as it conflicts with Army and Air Force regulations which establish the type of uniform to be worn. On the merits, requiring the Employer to provide five additional sets of uniforms is excessive; adoption of this proposal would bring to nine the number of uniforms provided to enlisted civilian technicians, and would require continuation of the uniform exchange program. In addition, there is no demonstrated need for the additional uniforms; in this regard, the Rhode Island National Guard is on a compressed work schedule, which should allow sufficient time for employees to launder their work clothing. Moreover, the Union's proposal requiring payment of a $400 annual uniform allowance to warrant officers and commissioned officers fails to recognize that these employees receive an initial clothing allowance of $250 from the Department of Defense and $75 per year from the State of Rhode Island. Since the overall cost of the Union's proposal would be approximately $140,000, its adoption could result in a reduction in force, as the Employer is already facing a budgetary shortfall for this fiscal year. Finally, the Union proposal in this case appears to differ from one agreed to by another ACT local in a similar dispute involving the Wisconsin National Guard; in that case, the union agreed only to a clothing exchange program similar to the one proposed in the instant proceeding.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented in this case, we conclude that neither party's final offer would adequately resolve the impasse. In this regard, the record demonstrates that the Employer's proposal is inadequate. Under its approach, frequent laundering would be necessary, given that employees are provided only four sets of uniforms in connection with their membership in the National Guard, and they are likely to become soiled during the course of the workday. Moreover, a $5 bi-weekly uniform allowance for commissioned officers and warrant officers is too little, given the cost of replacement uniforms. Furthermore, we are persuaded that the current exchange program has caused employees to experience delays in obtaining replacement items. The Union's proposal, on the other hand, would only prolong final resolution of the dispute by requiring the parties to continue discussions over the items of clothing to be provided by the Employer as part of the additional uniform allotment. Since it also proposes continuation of the exchange program, its proposal is deficient for that reason as well.

    Accordingly, we shall order the parties to adopt a compromise which we believe offers a more fair and equitable solution.(6) In this connection, we are persuaded that requiring the Employer to provide additional work clothing in accordance with the monetary limits permitted by law should, over time, allow employees to accumulate a sufficient number of uniforms and eventually eliminate the burden of frequent laundering. Moreover, granting employees the discretion to select replacement items should prevent waste and promote the efficient allocation of resources. In addition, a monetary uniform allowance of $400 for commissioned officers and warrant officers is justified, given that the Employer does not furnish clothing to these individuals. Overall, this approach is consistent with the statutory scheme established by Congress which was apparently intended to provide financial relief to employees who are required to wear a military uniform while performing official duties in a civilian status.(7) Finally, we note that the elimination of the clothing exchange program should allow the Employer to offset some of the additional costs the compromise will entail.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by section 7119 of 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 under 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 parties to adopt the following wording:

ARTICLE XXVI -- ATTIRE. a. For those unit employees who are required to wear a prescribed uniform not furnished by the Employer (e.g., warrant officers and commissioned officers), a total annual allowance of $400 shall be provided to each such employee for the initial purchase, upkeep, and replacement of their uniforms. b. For those unit employees who are required to wear a prescribed uniform which is furnished by the Employer, the Employer shall provide $400 worth of uniforms to each such employee on an annual basis, with the employee having the discretion to select the items of clothing to be provided. c. The Employer shall provide, to enlisted excepted technicians, patches and insignia required by applicable Army or Air Force directive; these items shall be provided at no cost to these employees.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

April 29, 1994

Washington, D.C.

 

1.In both its rebuttal statement and a separate, unsolicited memorandum dated March 4, 1994, the Employer requested that the Panel not consider the Union's proposal as set forth in its opening submission, but instead, consider only those portions of the Union's proposal which were presented to the Employer during mediation. According to the Employer, the Union's proposal contains "a completely new provision" which was not discussed by the parties during their bargaining and mediation sessions. Our subsequent investigation reveals, however, that although a written proposal on the subject of monetary uniform allowances was first received by the Employer in the Union's opening submission to the Panel, the matter was discussed by the parties during bargaining. Moreover, because the Employer had an opportunity to respond to the proposal in its rebuttal statement to the Panel, it was not prejudiced by this development. The Panel is part of the collective bargaining process, and urges parties to seek voluntary settlements at any stage of its consideration of an impasse. To prohibit parties from altering proposals once a case is filed with the Panel, as the Employer suggests, would be inconsistent with the goal of achieving such settlements. For these reasons, the Employer's request that the Union's proposal not be considered is hereby denied. Shortly after our investigation of the Employer's request, the Union, by letter dated March 25, 1994, requested that a Panel representative conduct a face-to-face proceeding with the parties "to discuss more fully the parties' respective positions in the impasse and their intentions during the bargaining process." The Employer opposed the request. Since we have denied the Employer's request to strike portions of the Union's proposal, the Union's request for a further proceeding appears to be moot, and is also hereby denied.

2.Civilian technicians fall within the jurisdiction of the National Guard Technicians Act, 32 U.S.C. § 709 (1988) and must, as a condition of employment, maintain military membership in a National Guard unit; in addition, they are required by the Employer to wear a uniform while in the performance of their official duties.

3.There is no disagreement that as members of the Rhode Island National Guard, all civilian technicians receive an initial clothing issue which consists of four sets of Battle Dress Uniforms. The five sets proposed by the Union would be in addition to this initial clothing issuance. The record is unclear as to whether all of the items included in the initial clothing issuance are suitable for everyday wear.

4.Although neither party cited any specific authority, there is no dispute that such a prohibition exists.

5.Enlisted service members on active duty are not permitted to participate in a uniform exchange program. They receive a basic allowance of approximately $15 per month to replace uniforms that become worn or badly soiled.

6.Our approach is consistent with that taken in Department of Defense, National Guard Bureau, Louisiana Army and Air National Guard, Jackson Barracks, New Orleans, Louisiana and Council of Louisiana National Guard Locals, National Federation of Federal Employees, Case No. 92 FSIP 85 (May 13, 1992), Panel Release No. 329.