DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS EDITH NOURSE ROGERS MEMORIAL VETERANS HOSPITAL BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS AND LOCAL R1-32, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS EDITH

NOURSE ROGERS MEMORIAL

VETERANS HOSPITAL

BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS

AND

LOCAL R1-32, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES,

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL

UNION, AFL-CIO

Case No. 95 FSIP 24

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local R1-32, National Association of Government Employees, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) pursuant to the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982 (Act), 5 U.S.C. § 6120 et seq., to resolve an impasse arising from the determination of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital, Bedford, Massachusetts (Employer or hospital) not to establish a compressed work schedule (CWS) as proposed by the Union.

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties, with the Panel to take final action in accordance with § 6131(c) of the Act and 2472.12 of its regulations. Pursuant to the Panel's determination, the Employer submitted written statements,(1) while the Union relied on a statement and other materials contained in its request for Panel assistance. The Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to provide medical care to veterans and their dependents. Local R1-32 represents 900 bargaining-unit employees at the hospital who are in 2 nationwide units of 2,928 (blue collar) and 8,574 (white collar), respectively. The outcome of the dispute will affect two payroll specialists (or clerks)(2) in Fiscal Service who chiefly collect and submit payroll data to the Data Processing Center; they also audit 66 timekeepers on a quarterly basis, train new timekeepers, and arrange for replacement of missing pay. The parties are covered by a national agreement due to expire in May 1995.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The dispute concerns whether the two payroll specialists should be permitted to work a 5-4/9 CWS. The issue before the Panel, therefore, is the following:

Whether the findings on which the Employer has based its determination not to establish the Union's proposed CWS are supported by evidence that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act.(3)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    Essentially, the Panel should find that the evidence on which the Employer based its determination not to institute the Union's proposed 5-4/9 CWS establishes that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act. The nature of the work that payroll clerks perform supports a need for regular working hours. In this regard, the current schedule is a better match with schedules of the majority of timekeepers who are the main sources for collecting payroll information. By contrast, the proposed CWS would reduce total time available for communications with timekeepers from 77 to 56 percent. Annual projects such as the Combined Federal Campaign and the open season for health insurance also would be harder to schedule. Furthermore, two payroll clerks need to be present to the maximum extent possible to certify or verify each other's payroll actions; this permits data to be posted expeditiously. Such regular hours also would serve to safeguard Federal funds. Finally, continuing these hours will ensure that employees are paid on time; delays in certification and verification, on the other hand, might delay employees' compensation, thereby lowering morale and harming employees' finances.

2. The Union's Position

    The Union basically proposes that the Employer be required to bargain over the 5-4/9 CWS for payroll technicians because it is not likely to have an adverse agency impact. The Act, GAO studies, and the President's July 7, 1994, directive calling for a "family-friendly" workplace(4) mandate that the Employer respond positively to the Union's CWS proposal. According to one clerk who is the father of triplets, the schedule would "enable . . . employees to better balance their work and family responsibilities [and] can increase employee effectiveness and job satisfaction while decreasing turnover rates and absenteeism." In addition, employees should be given the same privileges that the chief of the Fiscal Service has given himself; he works a variant schedule, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.,(5) so that he can play basketball at lunch and commute to his out-of-state home more easily. Furthermore, four other DVA hospitals (Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amarillo, Texas; American Lake (Tacoma), Washington; and Alexandria, Louisiana) permit fiscal employees performing identical duties the opportunity to participate in CWS. Regarding having more than one payroll clerk available at any given time, previously, an employee from another part of the fiscal section has provided help. Also, the supervisor who works the modified regular schedule could verify or certify payroll actions if needed. Since the payroll transactions are on paper, clerks do not have responsibility for "safeguarding" Federal funds. With respect to the 1 to 1 1/2 hours per day when employees would be present without supervision, both payroll clerks are long-time Federal employees; their positions require little supervision. With respect to how the schedules of payroll specialists on CWS would mesh with the schedules of other employees, extending the daily hours under CWS would actually increase rather than reduce the availability of payroll clerks to such employees. Finally, its proposal would offer considerable flexibility to deal with the Employer's concerns. Such flexibility includes: (1) a trial period; (2) removal from CWS for abuse; (3) minor adjustments without negotiations; (4) off days that will not interfere with payroll deadlines; and (5) automatic suspension of CWS for emergencies like extensive