DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU ARIZONA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD PHOENIX, ARIZONA AND CHAPTER 61, ASSOCIATION OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU

ARIZONA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

PHOENIX, ARIZONA

AND

CHAPTER 61, ASSOCIATION OF

CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS

Case No. 94 FSIP 105

DECISION AND ORDER

    Chapter 61, Association of Civilian Technicians (Union) and the Department of Defense, National Guard Bureau, Arizona Army National Guard, Phoenix, Arizona (Employer) 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, 5 U.S.C. § 7119.

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse concerning uniform allowances, which arose during successor collective bargaining agreement negotiations, should be resolved on the basis of an informal 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 met with the parties on July 15, 1994, in Phoenix, Arizona, 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 provides operational military units to support the Army. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 370 employees located at 28 installations throughout Arizona; the vast majority are civilian technicians (aircraft and vehicle mechanics). The main difference between civilian technicians and other Federal employees is that civilian technicians, who fall within the jurisdiction of the National Guard Technicians Act, 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 performing their official duties. The parties' collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is due to expire on June 2, 1996.

    During successor-agreement negotiations, the Employer raised allegations that the Union's proposals on work uniforms, the subject of the instant case, were nonnegotiable. The parties agreed to sever the proposals and the Union appealed the allegations to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). In Association of Civilian Technicians, Arizona Army Chapter 61 and U.S. Department of Defense, National Guard Bureau, Arizona National Guard, 48 FLRA 412 (September 1, 1993), the FLRA found the disputed proposals to be negotiable.(1) The parties, therefore, resumed negotiations, but were unable to reach agreement. When resolved, these disputed provisions will become part of the successor agreement which was implemented last year.

    Currently, civilian technicians receive four sets of uniforms when they enter the military. Under the fair wear and tear exchange system, they are provided with no cost replacement uniforms. By tradition, however, commissioned and warrant officers(2) are not eligible for the uniforms and do not participate in the exchange system. Instead, they receive a one-time $250 cash allowance on entering the military, and additional small amounts annually when the budget permits.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The issue essentially concerns the amount of assistance, cash or uniforms, to be provided to bargaining-unit employees who are required to wear uniforms during working hours.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Employer essentially would provide employees with the following: (1) three additional sets of battle dress uniforms or BDUs (basically, three sets of camouflage pants and shirts, one field jacket with liner, and one soft cap) or two class B uniforms (basically, two pair of slacks or two skirts, and two short sleeve shirts or blouses); (2) clothing and equipment appropriate for adverse climatic conditions such as wet/cold weather gear, hats, boots; (3) all required insignia, but bargaining-unit employees would affix them to the uniforms and maintain the uniforms; (4) exchange of worn-out uniforms under the fair wear and tear program during duty hours for non-officers; in this regard, the Employer promises to conduct an internal review to ensure uniforms are replaced in an expedited manner; and (5) two pairs of coveralls for employees who occupy mechanic positions. In addition, a $100 annual clothing allowance would be paid to commissioned officers and warrant officers who are bargaining-unit members.

    Preliminarily, the Employer asserts that the Panel should relinquish jurisdiction over the issue of clothing to be provided for cold weather conditions. Implemented sections of the parties' CBA, specifically Article XIII, Section 9, Extreme Temperature/Work Situations, cover clothing to be provided under such conditions and, therefore, further wording to deal with specifics of this subject is unnecessary.

    When taken together, the initial four uniforms allocated,(3) the three additional sets offered, continuation of the exchange program,(4) plus the use of coveralls, should supply employees with an adequate number of uniforms--approximately one for each day of the week. Furthermore, because civilian technicians follow a 5/4-9 compressed work schedule, they need fewer uniforms than employees who work 10 days in a pay period. The Union's proposal, on the other hand, is far too generous; it would create inequity between military and civilian personnel with respect to clothing allowances. Moreover, since the monetary allowance is to be given regardless of a particular employee's actual work uniform needs, such amounts may create a windfall for some employees, particularly GS employees who mainly do office work. As a result, in a fairly short time, if not already, employees might accumulate so many spare uniforms that the proposed monetary allowance or its equivalent value in uniforms would amount to waste, fraud, and abuse.

2. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes the following:

    Article XIV Dress Code.

Section 3. For those bargaining-unit employees who are required to wear a prescribed uniform which is furnished by the Employer, the Employer shall provide $400.00 worth of uniform items to each such employee on an annual basis, with the employee having the discretion to select the items of clothing to be provided.

Section 4. For those bargaining-unit employees who are required to wear a prescribed uniform which is not furnished by the Employer (warrant officers and commissioned officers in the National Guard) a total annual allowance of $400.00 shall be provided to each such employee for the initial purchase, upkeep, and replacement of their uniforms.

Regarding cold/foul weather gear, the Union would accept the items listed in the Employer's July 1, 1994, letter presented at the informal conference.(5)

    Under the current system, employees receive an insufficient number of uniforms; daily, weekend, and summer work requirements for these dual status employees could justify a proposal for 18 sets. In addition, problems associated with long waits for replacement uniforms through the exchange system and possible discipline for wearing faded or damaged uniforms (in as little as 1 month, after 10 washings, BDUs begin to fade), often force these relatively low-paid employees to buy extra uniforms with their own money; employees are forbidden to wear the uniforms during non-duty hours. To keep warm in cooler weather, they may also need to purchase, out of pocket, $80 to $90 windbreakers and sweaters which the Employer authorizes, but does not supply. Finally, the National Guard expects them to keep the four initially provided uniforms in ready condition for emergency situations and weekend and summer camp use.

    With respect to the uniform allowance amount, the Panel found that amount reasonable in a recent case involving identically situated employees.(6) The uniform exchange system in this case is working as inefficiently as was reported in Rhode Island National Guard. Regarding comparability, several private sector employers in the area provide their employees with more generous uniform allotments, and in some cases with cleaning and pickup as well. If the Employer continues to believe that the uniform allowance is a problem, it has the discretion to authorize cheaper uniforms or to do away with the requirement altogether.

CONCLUSIONS

    Preliminarily, we shall retain jurisdiction over the cold weather gear issue. We also shall order the parties to adopt the provision presented by the Employer in its July 1, 1994, letter. In brief, we are persuaded that although the matter is touched on elsewhere in the parties' CBA,(7) since negotiations for the implemented portions and this final section are part of the same agreement, inclusion of wording detailing the cold weather gear to be provided will serve to clarify the matter.

    With respect to the issue of uniform allowances, having considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, on balance, we conclude that they should adopt the Union's proposal to resolve the dispute. While the Employer offers more than other employers have proposed in previous cases involving uniforms for civilian technicians, we find that, under the facts of this case, the Union's proposal is more certain to meet employees' demonstrated needs. In this regard, we are persuaded that, in general, civilian technicians in Arizona are provided an insufficient number of uniforms and are also experiencing delays in receiving replacement uniforms through the exchange system. Such problems are especially significant for employees who work in a military environment that emphasizes dress standards. Should experience demonstrate, as the Employer predicts, that the $400 allowance is too generous, the parties can reopen discussions to explore other options to meet employees' needs in 1 1/2 years when their CBA expires or by mutual agreement.

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 Union's proposal and the following wording from the Employer's July 1, 1994, letter:

The following items will be issued to full-time technicians required to work outdoors in cold climate areas which include Flagstaff, Prescott, Kingman, Showlow and Payson.

Nomenclature Supply Source Quantity

Gloves, Insulated Black (in addition to work gloves J68064)

 
L/P 1 pair
Coveralls, Dark Green Insulated (ILO coveralls LIN No. 31439) L/P 1 pair

Boots, Insulated with Safety Toe  (ILO 1PR of safety toe boots)

 

L/P 1 pair

Parka, Extreme Cold Weather  (LIN No. N69904)

 

USPFO 1 each

Liner, Extreme Cold Weather  Parka (LIN No. 72022)

 

USPFO 1 each

The items listed below will be issued to ALL full-time technicians required to work outdoors in the performance of their duties.

Nomenclature Supply Source Quantity

Parka, Wet Weather (LIN No. N70110)

 

USPFO 1 each

Trousers, Wet Weather (LIN No. N37752)

 

USPFO 1 each
Overshoes, (GVO)(N39848) USPFO 1 pair

  

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

October 27, 1994

Washington, D.C.

 

1.The proposals the FLRA found negotiable are: 

Proposal 1 

Section 3. The Employer will provide, at no cost to the employee, ten complete sets of uniforms of the type the Employer determines the technician will typically wear in the position the technician is employed in. In the case of mechanic positions the Employer agrees to also provide a Field jacket or other cold weather outer clothing, two coveralls and two pairs of insulated gloves. This clothing is in addition to and separate from any uniforms or clothing issued to a technician as a member of the National Guard. 

Proposal 2 

Section 4. The Employer agrees to allow and provide for the direct exchange of worn or unserviceable items issued to the technician in section three (3) of this Article.

The FLRA accepted the Union's explanation that it did not intend the amount of clothing proposed to exceed the $400 statutory allowance.

2.There are approximately 25 officers in the bargaining unit.

3.The Employer claims that the military provides some employees a fifth set of BDUs i