DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE AIR FORCE MATERIEL COMMAND OKLAHOMA CITY AIR LOGISTICS CENTER TINKER AIR FORCE BASE TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, OKLAHOMA AND LOCAL 916, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

AIR FORCE MATERIEL COMMAND

OKLAHOMA CITY AIR

LOGISTICS CENTER

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, OKLAHOMA

AND

LOCAL 916, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 94 FSIP 96

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 916, 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, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, which arose during negotiations over the Employer's decision to reassign 20 employees, should be resolved on the basis of a telephone conference with a Panel representative. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the Panel's representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, and would make recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering 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 Ellen J. Kolansky held a telephone conference with the parties on June 16, 1994, but the issue at impasse was not resolved. Mrs. Kolansky has reported to the Panel and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer, one of five Air Logistics Centers in the Air Force Materiel Command nationwide, provides periodic maintenance and modification for military aircraft, mainly KC-135 tankers used to refuel other aircraft in mid-air and B-52s. The Union represents 9,000 bargaining-unit employees who are part of a nationwide, consolidated unit of 40,000. They work in electrician, sheet metal, and general aircraft skill positions; these are career-ladder positions. The master collective bargaining agreement (MCBA) expired in October 1992, but continues in effect while the parties negotiate a successor agreement.

    The dispute concerns the selection of 20 employees for involuntary reassignment from the electrician skill (2892, rewire modification electricians(1)) to the general aircraft skill (8852) position.(2)(3) Generally, reassignments occur from time to time as the nature of the work load changes. In this instance, the two groups of employees who might be reassigned include: (1) WG-5 developmental opportunity employees (DOPs), trainees in the electrical area,(4) and (2) approximately 3 or 4 WG-8, intermediate-level, and 96 WG-10, journeymen-level, electrician skill employees. The parties basically agree that employees in the latter group performed general aircraft skill work about 3 to 4 years ago; subsequently they were reassigned and retrained to perform electrician skill duties. Employees who work in this area basically rewire airplanes. Apparently, the electrician job is preferred by almost all bargaining-unit employees who occupy the position because it is clean work with a lot of down time. As a result, neither party expects more than 2 to 3 percent of employees to volunteer for the reassignments. General aircraft skill work is more diverse; among other things, employees in such positions remove and replace panels, repair fuel tanks, and install and remove engines, fabric, rigging, and hydraulic systems.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    Essentially, the issue is whether to include WG-5 DOP employees as the first to be selected for involuntary reassignment to general aircraft skill positions.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposal is:

Compulsory movement of WG-2892 bargaining-unit employees will be in ascending seniority order among bargaining-unit employees with prior WG-8852 experience by lowest grade and seniority order within that grade and within the unit, excluding Developmental Opportunity Program (DOP) employees.

    The Employer believes that reassigning seasoned employees who already have had experience performing general aircraft skill work would augment its ability to meet mission requirements efficiently. In this regard, electricians who were recently detailed to such duties were able to perform a number of tasks without intensive supervision, though at a slower rate than those already on the job. On the other hand, DOP employees have no experience, minimal skills, and would require at least 8 weeks of additional classroom training before they could do more than "go-for" tasks. A further complication to reassigning DOPs is that openings in a vocational program to train them in the general aircraft skill area are not anticipated until sometime in 1995. With respect to morale, reassigned journeymen electricians will adjust to the change in work assignments; DOP employees, however, whose promotions to WG-8 are tied to completing training, would possibly have to wait for 1 to 2 years both for promotions and skill certifications. The latter circumstances, which run contrary to expectations created when the DOP opportunities were posted, would have a negative impact on morale. In addition, DOP employees are treated differently by the regulations. For example, under reduction-in-force regulations, such employees are placed in a separate competitive level. Regarding the oversupply of electricians, excess numbers were not apparent until after the program had been planned, contracted for, and employees selected. For these reasons, it was determined to go forward despite the oversupply. Finally, regarding the significance of provision 3, it represents a real compromise which addresses the heart of why employees object to being reassigned to the general aircraft skill area; in conjunction with its proposal and the rest of the provisions agreed to by the parties, the amount of accommodation it provides should be sufficient to resolve the dispute.(5)(6)

2. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes that:

Compulsory movement of WG-2892 bargaining-unit employees will be: (1) All DOP Personnel, (2) All WG 8-2892 personnel, (3) All bargaining-unit employees with prior WG-8852 experience by lowest grade and seniority order within that grade and within the unit.

    Under the Union's proposal, DOPs would be selected first for involuntary reassignment to general aircraft skill positions. Otherwise, more senior employees would basically be forced out of positions they achieved over a 3- to 4-year period to make room for DOP employees. In this regard, the Employer knew that it had a surplus of electricians before the DOP began; the mistake of going forward with the decision to train more electricians under such circumstances should not be compounded by shifting the most competent electricians to positions that require different skills. Such journeyman-level electricians would virtually be novices in those positions. Instead, traditional seniority principles, in harmony with practices at Tinker AFB, dictate that DOPs, who are junior, and not fully competent to work as electricians, should be reassigned first. Furthermore, their need for additional training should not be the deciding factor because either group under consideration for reassignment would require some training; electricians did not perform the full range of duties in the general aircraft skill area when they held such positions. The current electrical DOP curriculum did afford DOP employees over 300 hours of generic training that applies to general aircraft skills as well. Moreover, on-the-job training is the norm at Tinker AFB; while receiving training, DOP employees would begin to perform the duties of the position, albeit under supervision. Finally, replacing journeyman electricians with DOP employees would have a negative effect on productivity in the electrical area.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, on balance, we conclude that they should adopt the Employer's proposal to resolve the dispute. Traditional seniority principles generally direct that more junior employees should be the first to be involuntarily reassigned. Basically, the Employer's proposal follows such principles even though it excludes DOP employees, the most junior group. We are persuaded, under the circumstances of this case, that this solution should foster productivity goals. While WG-8 and -10 electricians may not have performed general aircraft skill duties for some time, we believe that their mature skill levels, work habits, and familiarity with some tasks as evidenced by their performance while on detail to such positions, as reported by the Employer, should prove advantageous. At the same time, we find that employees in the DOP represent an inappropriate category for reassignment. In this regard, we note that they were drawn from diverse positions in many parts of the facility to participate in a year-long program specifically designed to expand their work opportunities. At this juncture, prior to their completing the training program and being certified, it would be unfortunate to terminate the training. To do so also would deny them the opportunity to master newly learned skills, the fruits of their studies.

    Regarding the relationship of the reassignment to the need to find positions for DOP employees once they successfully complete the training program, it would be speculative to conclude that the reassignment was solely or actually motivated by such needs. Fundamentally, under the Statute, management has the right to reassign employees. At this workplace, such reassignments appear to be commonplace mainly reflecting shifts in the quantity and type of aircraft being serviced.

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 Employer's proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

August 1, 1994

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Another category of electrician known as periodic depot maintenance electrician is more broadly skilled and includes the full gamut of electrical tasks including troubleshooting difficult problems. No one in this category is to be reassigned.

2.During negotiations, the parties agreed to five provisions related to