DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE PLANT PROTECTION AND QUARANTINE HONOLULU, HAWAII AND BRANCH 11, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AGRICULTURE EMPLOYEES

 

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH

INSPECTION SERVICE

PLANT PROTECTION AND QUARANTINE

HONOLULU, HAWAII

AND

BRANCH 11, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF AGRICULTURE EMPLOYEES

Case No. 94 FSIP 145

DECISION AND ORDER

    Branch 11, National Association of Agriculture Employees (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 Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine, Honolulu, Hawaii (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse concerning groundrules 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 November 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 is charged with facilitating the export of U.S. agricultural products and excluding exotic agricultural pests and diseases from the U.S. and its territories; every person arriving by ship and airplane in the western region is subject to inspection. Eighty-five bargaining-unit employees located in Hawaii, who are part of a nationwide bargaining unit of 1,400, will be affected by the outcome of this dispute. These full-time employees work mainly as plant protection and quarantine officers; they have academic backgrounds in biology, botany, entomology, and animal husbandry. The local and national agreements which would have expired on May 7, 1992, were extended; national-level bargaining for a successor master collective-bargaining agreement has been requested.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The sole issue in dispute is whether any implementation should occur before the parties' negotiations covering all four of the Employer's proposed changes to conditions of employment are complete.(1)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union's Position

    The Union's proposal reads:

Implementation shall not occur until all proposals including impact and implementation have been negotiated to conclusion.

The Employer's proposed changes were announced in a single memorandum dated December 15, 1993; because the changes are interrelated and would have similar if not identical adverse impacts on employees, they should be negotiated together. During previous bargaining, the Union was shortchanged when the Employer implemented before bargaining was complete. Even though the parties later returned to the table following a Union-filed unfair labor practice charge, the result was unsatisfactory. In addition, it has given the Employer "general impact" proposals relating to the effects of the changes as a group. If the Panel were to adopt the Employer's proposal, the general impact items might be shunted to the end of negotiations where they would be given short shrift. The Employer's proposal is unnecessary because the parties can agree at any time to implement a stand-alone provision. It also could cause disputes about whether the agreed-to provisions were independent enough to be implemented separately.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer's proposal reads:

Implementation may occur once specific relevant provisions are agreed upon, consistent with groundrules item #15 (i.e., provision reduced to writing and initialed by both parties).(2)

The changes announced in the December 15, 1993, memorandum will save the agency and private sector agents and brokers thousands of dollars through economies that include reducing overtime costs. It would be unfair and costly to delay these plans by insisting that the parties resolve disagreements over the "general impact" proposals before anything can be implemented. This is especially true since these proposals essentially "have nothing to do with" the substantive changes planned.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having considered the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the parties should adopt the Union's proposal to resolve the dispute. We are persuaded that this groundrule will promote a give-and-take over a full range of topics, including those identified by the Union as "general impact" proposals, and result in a more balanced negotiating process that gives each side an opportunity to present its interests. Adoption of the Employer's proposal, on the other hand, could undermine the negotiating process by undercutting the Union's incentive to reach agreement on anything. In reaching this conclusion, we are mindful of the Employer's significant cost saving goals; nevertheless, we believe that under the circumstances presented, the Union's proposal is more reasonable. Accordingly, we shall order its adoption.

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.

 

By direction of the Panel.