DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU ALASKA NATIONAL GUARD FORT RICHARDSON, ALASKA and ALASKA CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION OF CIVILIAN TECHNICIANS
|In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU
ALASKA NATIONAL GUARD
FORT RICHARDSON, ALASKA
Case No. 95 FSIP 161
ALASKA CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION OF
ARBITRATOR’S OPINION AND DECISION
The Alaska Chapter, Association of Civilian Technicians, (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse between it and the Department of Defense, National Guard Bureau, Alaska National Guard, Fort Richardson, Alaska (Employer) under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119. After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the dispute to the undersigned for mediation-arbitration by telephone. Pursuant to this procedural directive, a telephone conference was held with the parties on November 27, 1995. At the outset, mediation was used in an attempt to resolve the outstanding ground rules issue. When those efforts failed, an arbitration hearing was conducted. During that proceeding, the parties were given an opportunity to present their final proposals and to argue in support of their positions. The record is now closed, and I have considered all of the relevant information contained therein.
The Employer is a reserve component of the U.S. Army and Air Force. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 475 employees who are stationed at installations throughout the State of Alaska. The vast majority of unit employees are civilian technicians who perform maintenance work on aircraft, weapons, and communication systems. The parties’ collective-bargaining agreement expired on October 6, 1995, but remains in effect pending the implementation of a successor.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The sole issue in dispute involves the exchange of proposals for successor-agreement negotiations.
1. The Employer’s Position
The Employer’s proposal is as follows:
Proposals will be exchanged between the parties until the day before negotiations begin. After negotiations begin, new proposals may be introduced when an event or events precipitated by a party other than management or ACT occurs.
This proposal, according to the Employer, would allow each party sufficient time to prepare proposals prior to the start of negotiations, but would establish a cutoff point for their submission so that bargaining could progress in an orderly fashion. Under this plan, only proposals on "new" issues, defined as those arising as a result of an event outside the control of the parties, could be submitted after bargaining begins. The Employer believes that this approach would address the Union’s interest in bargaining over "new" issues during contract negotiations, while establishing a process that allows the parties to work towards agreement with minimal disruption.
With respect to the Union’s plan, the Employer contends that allowing subjects to be introduced randomly would result in a "disjointed" bargaining process. In its view, the Union has been provided an adequate amount of official time for preparation, and therefore, should be able to submit all of its proposals prior to the first bargaining session. Moreover, the Employer notes that even if the Union does not submit proposals on a subject during term bargaining, it would not be waiving its right to raise the issue during the life of the contract, as long as the matter is not already covered by the agreement. Overall, the Employer believes that its approach allows the parties to move forward in a good-faith manner and to deal with any unanticipated events that may occur.
2. The Union’s Position
The Union proposes:
Current labor-management agreement proposals shall be exchanged prior to the day before negotiations begin. During negotiation sessions, proposals may be freely amended and counterproposals offered anytime by either party until the article, or article section, has been agreed to. However, both parties reserve the right to introduce proposals to the negotiation team at any time or until it is mutually agreed that negotiations are closed. This language is intended to ensure that neither party is precluded from raising proposals during the bargaining process that [were] not considered on the initial exchange of proposals.
The Union argues that this proposal is necessary to protect its ability to submit new proposals at any time during the bargaining process. In its view, without this language, it would be waiving its right to bargain over any "new" issues that may arise during the course of the talks.(1) Since there are issues pending before the FLRA which may be decided during the course of the contract negotiations, the Union wants to preserve its right to bargain should a decision be rendered which is favorable to its interests. The Union explains that it intends to be fully prepared on issues which are "current" and that it will approach the talks in good faith.
With respect to the Employer’s position, the Union maintains that it is too restrictive and that there is simply no need for all proposals to be submitted prior to the commencement of talks. In addition, because it has had difficulty with mid-term bargaining in the past, the Union would prefer to address as many subjects as possible during contract talks, rather than continuing at some later date. Overall, the Union believes that its proposal will allow for a full and fair exchange of proposals without cluttering the bargaining process at the early stages.
Having reviewed the record in this case, I am persuaded that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of the Employer’s proposal. Collective bargaining, by its very nature, requires that parties approach negotiations in good faith, fully prepared to discuss their respective interests as they relate to conditions of employment. Inherent in this process is the idea that give and take will occur at the bargaining table, and that through a formal dialogue on a variety of subjects, parties will be able to reach consensus on those issues which are of greatest importance to them. The requirement that parties approach negotiations in good faith is a key concept in the overall scheme, and is one that includes a number of mutual obligations.(2)
With this in mind, it is my view that allowing either party a free rein to submit new proposals after contract talks have begun would be disruptive to the process described above. Such an approach would only encourage the parties to withhold proposals in the hopes that an advantage might be gained by surprising the other side. This could needlessly prolong bargaining and would likely have a negative impact on both the parties’ relationship and their ability to conclude a new agreement. Because the Union’s proposal follows this approach by allowing both parties the unrestricted right to introduce proposals "any time," I reject it as a viable solution to this dispute.
The Employer’s proposal, on the other hand, requires both sides to submit all proposals prior to the start of negotiations. In my opinion