DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER TRAINING SYSTEMS DIVISION ORLANDO, FLORIDA and LOCAL 2113, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER

TRAINING SYSTEMS DIVISION

ORLANDO, FLORIDA

and

LOCAL 2113, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Case No. 95 FSIP 30

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 2113, 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 Navy, Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division, Orlando, Florida (Employer).

   After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute, which concerns use of the installation's telecommunications system, should be resolved through an informal telephone 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, Panel Representative (Staff Attorney) Harry E. Jones conducted a telephone conference with the parties on March 23, 1995. At the conclusion of that proceeding, Mr. Jones directed the parties to submit their final offers, in writing, on the one issue remaining in dispute. He has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer's mission is to develop simulators and systems for training military personnel in the operation of aircraft, submarines, and tanks. Local 2113 represents two separate bargaining units at the installation -- one professional and one nonprofessional. The parties are covered by a collective-bargaining agreement which is due to expire on June 5, 1997. They have reached impasse following negotiations over an Employer-proposed instruction which establishes a revised policy on the use of the installation's telecommunications system.

ISSUE

    The parties disagree over whether employees should be permitted to make certain types of telephone calls, from Government phones, at the Employer's expense.

1. The Union's Position

    The Union's proposal is as follows:

Official Calls. Official calls are defined as official calls and those calls within the local commuting area determined to be necessary in the interest of the Government. Some examples of calls determined to be necessary in the interest of the Government are: (1) calls to speak to a spouse or minor children or those responsible for the children, (2) calls to locations that can only be reached during working hours, such as a local government agency, bank, or physician, (3) calls to arrange for emergency repairs to home or car, (4) calls to advise family of a change in work schedule or to make alternative transportation or child care arrangements. Personal Calls. Employees may use the Government phone system to make personal calls outside the local commuting area provided those calls: (1) do not adversely affect the performance of official duties, (2) are of reasonable duration and frequency, (3) could not reasonably have been made at another time, and (4) are made to an 800 toll-free number, or (5) are charged to the employee's home (or other non-government phone number) or a personal telephone credit card.

This proposal is consistent with the General Services Administration (GSA) regulation found at 41 C.F.R. § 201-21.601(d)(1994), which provides that "official business calls may include emergency calls and other calls the agency determines are necessary in the interest of the Government." Since GSA apparently believes that the types of calls set forth in the Union's proposal are "necessary in the interest of the Government," as evidenced by their inclusion in Appendix A to Federal Information Resources Management Regulation (FIRMR) Bulletin C-13 (January 31, 1991),(1) employees should be allowed to place, at the Employer's expense, the types of calls described by the Union. In addition, the proposal is consistent with previous GSA regulations, 41 C.F.R. Part 201-38 (1987), which provide that calls "necessary in the interest of the Government" need not be limited to local (no cost) calls. Moreover, the practice at the installation was to allow employees to make brief personal calls at Government expense, and the Employer has not demonstrated a need to change at this time. The policies at other military installations allow these types of calls to be made at Government expense, and since only a relatively small number of employees live outside the local calling area, the cost to the Employer should be minimal. Furthermore, this proposal is consistent with a directive issued by President Clinton which requires executive departments and agencies to create a more "family-friendly" workplace. Finally, the proposal presents a practical approach to the issue since the cost of processing reimbursement payments far exceeds the amounts collected; that is, contrary to stated policy, employees have been permitted to make personal long-distance calls from the installation's phones as long as they reimburse the Government. In short, the Panel should follow the GSA guidance and consider the types of calls set forth in the Union's proposal to be necessary in the interest of the Government.

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

Policy. Telephones are provided for the purpose of conducting official Government business. All personnel shall be judicious in telephone usage, limiting the number and length of telephone calls to conduct Government business. a. Use of NAVAIRWARCENTRASYSDIV Telephones for Personal Reasons. Personnel may make brief necessary personal phone calls during normal work hours if the following conditions are met: (1) There is no charge to the Government. If the call is a toll call or a nonlocal call which incurs a charge, the call must be made collect, charged to a home number, or charged to a personal calling card. (2) The calls do not adversely affect the individual's performance of official duties or negatively impact the organization. (3) The calls are for a legitimate need, are of a reasonable number/frequency, and cannot be made at another time. Abuse of these privileges may result in disciplinary or administrative actions.

This policy is necessary because the local phone company has added long-distance charges to some calls which had previously been in the activity's local calling area. The effect of this change is that some calls to families or businesses now incur long-distance charges. The proposed policy would still allow employees to use Government phones, but employees must bear the cost of any long-distance charges. The proposal is consistent with Office of Government Ethics (OGE) regulations set forth at 5 C.F.R. § 2635.704 (1994);(2) Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Ethics Regulation 5500.7-R (August 1993); and Department of the Navy (DON) ALNAV Message of November 12, 1989, Subj: Department of the Navy Policy Concerning Use of Department of Defense Telephones for Personal Use. In addition, it is consistent with the policies of other Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) installations.(3) Finally, the proposal is not a departure from the prior activity instruction which did not allow for payment for these types of calls.(4)

    With respect to the Union's proposal, GSA regulations allow the Employer the discretion to determine whether certain types of calls are necessary in the interest of the Government. Both DOD and DON have determined, at the department level, that personal calls are not in the interest of the Government unless they are billed to a non-Government number. Since the Union proposes wording which is directly contrary to the stated policy, it would carve out, for a relatively small group of employees, an exception to a well-established, department-wide regulation. Moreover, since employees choose where to live, the Employer should not be expected to assume the costs associated with an employee's decision to live a lengthy distance from the installation. In addition, since pay phones, collect calling, and calling cards are readily available, there should be no need for an employee to bill personal calls to the Employer. Finally, the Union's proposal would create an unnecessary expense to the Employer which cannot be justified in the current economic climate.

CONCLUSIONS

    Having reviewed the record on this issue, we conclude that the Employer's proposal provides the best resolution to the dispute. In our view, the Employer's proposal is reasonable, as it allows employees to use the activity's telephones to make personal calls, provided there is no cost to the Government. The Union's proposal, in contrast, would result in an unnecessary expense to the installation and would appear to be inconsistent with both DOD and OGE regulations. For these reasons, we shall order the adoption of the Employer's proposed wording.

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 following:

    The parties shall adopt the Employer's proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

April 24, 1995

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Attachment A sets forth the following "Examples of Calls Necessary in the Interest of the Government:" 

1. Calls to home or doctor if an employee is injured or becomes sick at work. 

2. An employee traveling on Government business is delayed by business or transportation problems and calls to notify family. 

3. An employee traveling on Government business in the United States makes a brief call home but not more than an average of one call per day. Note -- Federal a