DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY U.S. ARMY ARMOR CENTER AND FORT KNOX FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY AND LOCAL 2302, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

U.S. ARMY ARMOR CENTER AND

FORT KNOX

FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY

AND

LOCAL 2302, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 95 FSIP 154

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 2302, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union), and the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Armor Center and Fort Knox, Fort Knox, Kentucky (Employer) filed a joint request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse 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 Employer’s determination not to implement a 4-10 compressed work schedule (CWS).

    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 parties submitted written statements of position and rebuttal statements.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to provide basic training and advanced individual training to armor soldiers. The Union represents approximately 2,200 employees who hold professional and nonprofessional positions such as accountant, attorney, education specialist, engineer, janitor, mechanic, truck driver, tool-and-parts attendant, and clerk. The affected employees are assigned to the Directorate of Public Works, Operations and Maintenance Division. They include six tool-and-parts attendants who order or directly purchase and deliver parts and, on a daily basis, issue and receive craftsmen’s tools, and two clerks who answer telephone and in-person inquiries from shop customers, and direct work requests, thereby freeing shop foremen to make field visits to assist craftsmen and check their progress. The parties’ collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) expires on December 7, 1997.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The dispute concerns the Employer’s determination not to implement a 4-10 CWS for the eight employees described above. The issue before the Panel is the following:

Whether the findings on which the Employer has based its determination not to establish the Union's proposed CWS is supported by evidence that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act.(1)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

    The Panel should find that the evidence on which the Employer bases its determination not to implement the 4-10 CWS establishes that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act. Currently, only employees who occupy "positions with sufficient numbers of employees to provide cost effective coverage on off days" have the 4-10 option.(2) The eight employees that the Union proposes for the schedule are located in different buildings. As a result, there would be insufficient backup support for off days. This view is reinforced by experience with absences when these employees are away on annual and sick leave. While identical positions in other directorates may be granted the option to work such schedules, employees in those directorates tend to be located in one building which facilitates coverage.(3)

    Regarding tool-and-parts attendants, if they were to be granted the 4-10 option, productivity would be decreased and costs increased because craftsmen would have to be called in up to 416 times per year to substitute for them. In this regard, WG-8 and -10 craftsmen are paid $1.68 to $2.80 per hour more than WG-5 attendants; assigning them such additional, lower graded duties would increase the annual costs attributable to tool-and-parts functions by $4,194 to $6,990. Furthermore, craftsmen are unfamiliar with and, therefore, inefficient in performing procurement and tool distribution functions and such additional duties would slow completion of their regular work. Also, they do not have the credit cards needed for purchasing replacement parts.

    As to lower graded clerk positions, they were established to reduce costs when some craftsmen positions were abolished. The benefits of this cost-saving initiative would be reduced if craftsmen again were required to assist foremen by answering telephones and distributing work requests when clerks take their days off. In addition, WG-7 craftsmen are paid $4.10 more per hour than WG-4 clerks, resulting in an annual cost increase of $3,412 if they substitute for clerks, which they would be required to do under the Union’s proposal.

2. The Union's Position

    Essentially, the Panel should reject the Employer’s finding that the 4-10 CWS for eight employees would have an adverse agency impact. Placing these employees on the schedule is warranted because almost all other employees of the Directorate already have been granted the option.(4) In addition, employees occupying identical positions in other directorates are permitted such schedules. Regarding the Employer’s evidence, the moderate cost increases it predicts do not establish that the schedule would cause an adverse agency impact. Furthermore, such costs may be considerably less or nonexistent because the Employer normally does not provide substitutes when tool-and-parts attendants and clerks take annual and sick leave. In such circumstances, 90 percent of craftsmen report that they have not experienced serious problems gaining access to tools and parts. The following factors indicate that such costs may be entirely avoidable: (1) tradesmen carry a 2-week supply of tools on their trucks;(5) (2) supervisors and work leaders are frequently available to distribute parts and tools, especially in the early morning and late afternoon; (3) requests for parts and service could be made in advance to conform to employees’ CWS patterns; (4) employees who are assigned light duty could fill in; and (5) since buildings are only 150 feet apart or closer, a system of shared coverage could be established by pairs of employees. As to handling clerk duties during off days, technology is available to transfer calls automatically, and supervisors already have pagers and cellular telephones for field communications. Finally, starting with an experimental program is a reasonable way to test the workability of the CWS.

CONCLUSIONS

    Under § 6131(c)(2) of the Act, the Panel is required to take final action in favor of the determination of the agency head or, in this instance, that of his delegatee, not to establish the CWS if the finding on which it is based is supported by evidence that the schedule is likely to cause an "adverse agency impact." The Act's legislative history clearly indicates that the Employer bears the burden of proving adverse impact.(6)

    Having considered the evidence before us, we find that the Employer has not met its statutory burden. In our view, this finding is consistent with the Act, which creates a presumption in favor of CWS.(7) Regarding the Employer’s conclusion that current problems pertaining to annual and sick leave coverage indicate that they would be exacerbated under a 4-10, such conclusion is unsupported by the record. Furthermore, we believe that with some cooperation such essentially minor challenges can be met. We note that the Union has provided some potentially helpful suggestions for facilitating access to tools and parts and communication linkages in its statements to the Panel. For this reason, we also are unpersuaded by the Employer’s predictions of the costs that would be generated by implementation of the schedule. In any case, while coverage needs may shift some costs from one function to another if they do occur, they do not appear to increase the overall amounts budgeted for salaries. In light of the foregoing, we shall order the Employer to negotiate over the Union’s proposed 4-10 CWS for the eight affected employees.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act, 5 U.S.C. § 6131(c), the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under § 2472.12(b) of its regulations, hereby orders the Employer to negotiate with the Union over the proposed 4-10 CWS.

 

By direction of the Panel.

Linda A. Lafferty

Executive Director

December 21, 1995

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Under § 6131(b), "adverse agency impact" is defined as:

 

(1) a reduction of the productivity of the agency;

(2) a diminished level of the services furnished to the public by the agency; or

(3) an increase in the cost of agency operations (other than a reasonable administrative cost relating to the process of establishing a flexible or compressed work schedule).

2.The Employer explains that recently in the Directorate of Public Works, Operations and Maintenance Division, some clerks have been permitted a 4-10 CWS when back up can be provided by others at the same grade level who have the necessary knowledge and skills.

3.The Employer is uncertain about all of the circumstances surrounding employees in other directorates who are permitted to participate in a 4-10 CWS option.

4.During negotiations, the Union proposed a 3-month trial of the 4-10 schedule.

5.<