DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WESTERN AREA POWER ADMINISTRATION GOLDEN, COLORADO AND LOCAL 3824, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO





United States of America



BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL







In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

WESTERN AREA POWER ADMINISTRATION

GOLDEN, COLORADO

AND


LOCAL 3824, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO



Case No. 96 FSIP 99






DECISION AND ORDER



Local 3824, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (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 Energy, Western Area Power Administration, Golden, Colorado (WAPA or Employer).



Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which involved negotiations over a major reorganization, the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with Panel Member Dolly M. Gee for the purpose of resolving the outstanding issues. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Ms. Gee would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers and her recommendations for resolving the issues. After considering the report, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.



Pursuant to the Panel's determination, the parties met with Ms. Gee on September 9, 1996. Although they reached agreement on several issues,(1) the entire dispute was not resolved. Ms. Gee has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.



BACKGROUND



WAPA is responsible for marketing and transmitting wholesale electric power which is produced by Federal hydroelectric dams in 15 Western States. It is a nonappropriated-fund activity which receives revenue solely from the services it provides to customers, and is divided into four regions: (1) the Upper Great Plains Region; (2) the Desert Southwest Region; (3) the Rocky Mountain Region; and (4) the Sierra Nevada Region. The Union represents a bargaining unit of between 800 to 900 General Schedule (GS) employees, who work as engineers, dispatchers, public utility specialists, accountants, and administrative staff. Their pay grades range from GS-2 through -13. The parties have renegotiated their collective-bargaining agreement (CBA), which expired on March 18, 1994; that agreement is currently awaiting agency head approval.



ISSUES



The parties disagree over numerous reorganization issues which pertain to the numbers, types, and grades of bargaining-unit employees in three of the regions.



1. Desert Southwest Region (DSWR)



a. The Union's Position



The Union would add two bargaining-unit positions in DSWR: (1) one Electronics Engineer [Technical Lead, GS-855-13 in G4300, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition ("SCADA") Support]; and (2) one Public Utilities Specialist [Technical Lead, GS-1130-14 in G6100, Rates]. Its proposal is necessary to help the work force "operate more efficiently" by providing technical expertise to other unit employees. In addition, should the Panel adopt its position, "management will be forced to reevaluate" its supervisory structure. This would lead to a reduction in the supervisor/employee ratio, which is a goal of Vice President Gore's National Performance Review (NPR).



b. The Employer's Position



The Employer opposes adding a Technical Lead position in either SCADA or Rates. Both units currently have a Team Leader (limited supervisor), and adding Technical Lead positions "would result in duplication of effort." These proposed positions would also "provide excessive technical direction for the scope of the program and the number of employees in the team." In this connection, the Union's proposal would create two Team Leads for five employees in SCADA and two Team Leads for three employees in Rates.



CONCLUSIONS



Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented, we are persuaded that the Employer's position should be adopted. In general, we find that the Union's justification for its proposals rarely provides specific data which would enable us to make an informed decision regarding the necessity for the individual positions which it seeks to add. Specifically, the Union has not provided sufficient evidence to justify the creation of two Technical Lead positions in DSWR at this time. For this reason, however, in addition to adopting the Employer's position, we also shall order the Union to hold its request for these positions in abeyance until January 10, 1998, when additional data in support of such positions may be asserted, if available, for the parties' joint consideration. This is consistent with what the parties have already agreed to do with respect to other job positions in the regional offices, and should permit them to revisit the issue of creating additional bargaining-unit positions on the basis of experience under the reorganization, rather than speculation.



2. Sierra Nevada Region (SNR)



a. The Union's Position



The Union proposes to add four bargaining-unit positions: (1) one Public Utilities Specialist [Technical Lead, GS-1130-13/14 in N6100, Rates]; (2) one Computer Specialist [Technical Lead, GS-1102-13/14 in N1500, Procurement]; (3) one Dispatcher [AD-303-4 in N4100, Dispatch Center]; and (4) one Computer Specialist [GS-334-11/13 in N4300, SCADA Support]. It also would reassign an Engineer position [GS-12/13] from Maintenance Engineering [N5500] to SCADA Support [N4300]. Similar to its proposal for DSWR, this region needs a Technical Lead position in both Procurement [N1500] and Rates [N6100] to help the work force "operate more efficiently" by providing technical expertise to other unit employees. These positions would also help reduce the supervisor/employee ratio. With regard to the Dispatcher position, a 10-person rotation, with two dispatchers on duty for each shift, is necessary to provide sufficient coverage due to increasing workload and overtime hours.(2) The reduction of overtime hours would improve safety, customer service, and morale because the 12-hour shift "can take a toll emotionally and physically on the dispatching personnel." Finally, there is sufficient work to support the creation of a Computer Specialist position and the reassignment of the Engineer position from Maintenance Engineering to SCADA Support. In this regard, SCADA Support services are relied on to meet the "rapid response time requirements" of the agency and "to keep pace with changes" in both the electric power industry and the computer and communications industry.



b. The Employer's Position



The Employer declines to create any of the Union's proposed bargaining-unit positions in this region, and opposes the reassignment of an Engineer position from Maintenance to SCADA Support. With regard to the Technical Lead positions in Procurement and Rates, both units currently have a Team Leader (limited supervisor), and hiring Technical Leads would result in "unnecessary duplication" of the Team Leader's duties. In addition, the creation of a Computer Specialist position in SCADA Support is unjustified because the staffing levels are "consistent with other regions" and the present workload will decrease once the new computerized dispatching system is operational. While the Employer acknowledges that "overtime hours have increased since 1993," overtime will be "significantly reduced" with the use of a nine-person rotation.(3) With only 608 hours of overtime anticipated per year, it would not be "cost effective" to add another Dispatcher position. Finally, its opposition to reassigning an Engineer position from Maintenance Engineering to SCADA Support is based on the fact that the two employees who currently occupy that position "do not have the technical computer skills needed in the SCADA function." The Maintenance Engineering unit would also be adversely affected by removing one of the two employees who provide senior technical support.



CONCLUSIONS



After examining the evidence and arguments presented, we shall order the parties to adopt the Employer's position, but modified to add one Dispatcher position [AD-303-4 in N4100, Dispatch Center]. In our view, the Union has submitted substantiating data which demonstrates the need for an additional Dispatcher based on the amount of overtime hours required to provide adequate coverage in the Dispatch Center. Preliminarily, it is undisputed that there has been an increasing workload and significant overtime in the Dispatch Center. Our evaluation of the data provided by the parties persuades us that approximately 1,980 hours in overtime will accrue each year with a nine-person rotation.(4) For this reason, we conclude that a 10th dispatcher is warranted. In addition, the subsequent reduction of overtime hours should address safety concerns relating to the overworking of dispatchers. With regard to the rest of the Union's proposal in SNR, we find no basis in the record to support its adoption. Therefore, we also shall order the Union to hold its request for all other positions in SNR in abeyance until January 10, 1998, when additional data in support of such positions may be asserted, if available, for the parties' joint consideration.



3. Rocky Mountain Region (RMR)



a. The Union's Position



The Union proposes 11 additional bargaining-unit positions: (1) two Computer Specialists [GS-5/9 in J1400, Information Resources]; (2) one Computer Specialist [GS-9/11 in J1400, Information Resources]; (3) one Purchasing Agent [GS-5/7 in J1500, Procurement and Property]; (4) two Dispatchers [AD-4 in J4100, Dispatch Center]; (5) one Electrical Engineer [GS-5/12 in J5200, Maintenance]; and (6) four Electrical Engineers [GS-5/12 in J5500, Maintenance Engineering]. It also would staff three bargaining-unit positions in Loveland and Montrose, Colorado, respectively: (1) one Administrative Assistant [GS-5/7 in J1200, Human Resources, Loveland]; (2) one Property Management Specialist [GS-11 in J1500, Procurement and Property, Montrose]; and (3) one Electrical Engineering Technician [GS-8 in J1500, Maintenance, Montrose]. Finally, it proposes that the grade band of two Public Utilities Specialists [GS-11 in J4200, Billing] be changed to GS-11/12, and an Electrical Engineering Technician [GS-9/11 in J4200, Billing and Scheduling] be converted to a Public Utilities Specialist [GS-11/12].



There should be no dispute over the need for the three Computer Specialist positions "based upon the diversity of responsibilities and the different levels of computer knowledge that is required for this team." Similarly, the three positions in Loveland and Montrose, Colorado, should be added because the Employer has not disputed their necessity. With respect to the Purchasing Agent position, and the Electrical Engineer positions in Maintenance and Maintenance Engineering, work would not be performed in a timely and accurate manner if these positions are not created. The two Public Utilities Specialist positions warrant an increased grade level to GS-12 because their duties involve the "huge responsibility" of "handling over 20 million dollars in accounts receivable per month" and "2 million dollars in accounts payable per month." The Employer has also previously agreed to grade band similar positions in this region. Finally, converting an Electrical Engineering Technician position [GS-11] into a Public Utilities Specialist position [GS-11/12] would promote consistency within the bargaining unit; in this regard, there is an identical Public Utilities Specialist position in DSWR.



b. The Employer's Position



In essence, the Employer proposes to add three bargaining-unit positions in Montrose, Colorado: (1) one Property Manager [J1500]; (2) one Engineering Technician [J5300]; and (3) one Electrical Engineer [J5500]. It also agrees to reclassify one Electrical Engineering Technician currently at the GS-11 level to the Public Utility Specialist series, but will only agree to the GS-12 level proposed by the Union if a job classification review supports the higher grade. Finally, it would "add two engineering positions at the GS-12 level to Maintenance Engineering [J5500]," if the Union agrees to withdraw its proposal for all other bargaining-unit positions.



The Employer objects to creating the Administrative Assistant and Computer Specialist positions for a number of reasons. First, they are currently filled by contractors, and the issue of contracting out is a nonnegotiable management right. There is also a lack of availab