DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS BALTIMORE DISTRICT BALTIMORE, MARYLAND and LOCAL 639, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

BALTIMORE DISTRICT

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

and

LOCAL 639, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Case No. 94 FSIP 146

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 639, National Federation of Federal Employees (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 the Army, Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Baltimore, Maryland (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which originally concerned portions of two articles of a successor collective-bargaining agreement (CBA), should be resolved through an informal conference between a Panel representative and the parties. If no settlement were reached, the representative was to notify the Panel of the status of the dispute, including the final offers of the parties and the representative's recommendations for resolving the matter. Following notification, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse.

    In accordance with this procedural determination, Staff Associate Harry E. Jones met with the parties on September 20, 1994, at the Employer's offices in Baltimore, Maryland. During the course of that proceeding, all but one of the outstanding issues were resolved. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Jones requested that the parties submit written statements setting forth their final positions on the remaining issue. Those position statements have been received, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to operate flood control projects and perform military construction for the Department of the Army. The Baltimore District is headquartered in downtown Baltimore and includes approximately 20 field projects in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and West Virginia. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 825 professional and nonprofessional employees who range in grade from GS-2 through -13 and WG-3 through -11. The parties' prior contract, which expired in February 1985, remains in effect until a successor is implemented.

ISSUE

    The sole issue in dispute is the amount of official time that Union officers should be allowed.

1. The Union's Position

    The Union's proposal is as follows:

In addition to the support of the mission and the administration of the Labor-Management program, the Employer grants authorization of official full-time status for the president, 1st vice-president and the secretary of the Union.

Under this proposal, three Union officials (the president, the 1st vice-president, and the secretary) would each be placed on official time on a full-time basis. This amount is necessary so that Union officers can effectively carry out their responsibilities under both the CBA and the parties' partnership agreement. In this regard, the partnership arrangement requires increased Union participation. In addition, the local has become an extension of the NFFE National Office, and, therefore, its officers should have parity with their national-level counterparts. Moreover, the cost of the proposal would be recouped through reductions in overtime which will occur because of an agreed-to alternative work schedule program. Finally, adoption of the proposal should alleviate the problem of Union officials performing representational duties on their own time.

    The "reasonable time" standard advocated by the Employer may result in disputes over interpretation; this, in turn, could have an adverse effect on the parties' partnership. Moreover, continual requests for official time may be disruptive to operations and may cause friction between Union officials and their supervisors. Overall, full-time Union representation is necessary to build a more cooperative relationship.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer maintains that the parties should be bound by the provisions of Article VI, "Official Time," which were initialed on November 18, 1993, during negotiations. Article VI, Section 1, provides, among other things, that "Union representatives shall be permitted reasonable time during working hours without loss of leave or pay to effectively represent employees in accordance with this agreement."(1) The Union's current proposal was an afterthought and is inconsistent with the provisions of both Article VI and the parties' ground rules agreement.(2) On the merits, there is no demonstrated need for full-time Union officials, given the size of the unit, past use of official time, and the relatively small number of grievances filed by the Union.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having reviewed the record in this case, we conclude that the parties should be bound by the provisions of Article VI, "Official Time," which were initialed during their negotiations. In our view, this solution preserves the integrity of the collective-bargaining process by requiring both sides to abide by their prior agreements. On the merits, the "reasonable time" standard appears warranted given past levels of Union activity and the relatively small size of the bargaining unit. For these reasons, we shall order the Union to withdraw its proposal.

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:

The Union shall withdraw its proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

December 21, 1994

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Article VI, Section 1, goes on to describe the types of activities for which official time may be used. These include: (1) negotiations conducted during the life of the agreement; (2) investigating, preparing, and presenting grievances; (3) acting as an observer in certain third-party proceedings; and (4) serving as a representative of the Union on any joint labor-management committees.

2.Paragraph 6 of the ground rules agreement provides: 

Exchange of Proposals. All proposed articles by both Management and the Union must be exchanged prior to the first negotiation meeting, excluding ground rule negotiations. New articles will not be accepted for negotiation after the presentation of each party's initial proposals. 

It is undisputed that the Union's current proposal on official time was not presented as part of its initial package. It maintains, however, that its omission was caused b