DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE BROOKHAVEN SERVICE CENTER HOLTSVILLE, NEW YORK and CHAPTER 99, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

BROOKHAVEN SERVICE CENTER

HOLTSVILLE, NEW YORK

and

CHAPTER 99, NATIONAL TREASURY

EMPLOYEES UNION

Case No. 96 FSIP 120

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Chapter 99, National Treasury Employees Union (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 Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Brookhaven Service Center, Holtsville, New York (Employer).

   After investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns the level of nursing coverage at the Yaphank satellite office, the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with a Panel representative for the purpose of resolving the outstanding issues. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the representative would notify the Panel of the status of the dispute and would make recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Pursuant to this procedural determination, Panel Representative (Staff Attorney) Harry E. Jones met with the parties on November 14, 1996, at the Brookhaven Service Center in Holtsville, New York. At the close of the proceeding, the parties remained deadlocked on the outstanding issue. Mr. Jones has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer processes income tax returns for taxpayers in New York and New Jersey. The 4,000 workers represented by the Union(1) are part of a nationwide bargaining unit of approximately 40,000 employees who are stationed at IRS service centers throughout the country. The parties are governed by the master collective- bargaining agreement between IRS and NTEU, which is due to expire on June 30, 1998. In this case, they have reached impasse following negotiations over the impact and implementation of the Employer’s decision to reassign approximately 400 employees to a satellite office in Yaphank, New York, which is located 6 miles from the Brookhaven Service Center. The reassignment was implemented on or about June 25, 1996, prior to the instant request being filed with the Panel.

ISSUE

    The issue in dispute is the level of nursing coverage which should be provided at the Yaphank office.(2)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes the following:

The health unit at Yaphank Post of Duty will be staffed by a Brookhaven Service Center nurse already on board on a part time basis for a maximum of 20 hours per week. IRS and NTEU will come to an agreement regarding the schedule for nursing services at the Yaphank Post of Duty.

Preliminarily, any Union proposal which requires the agency to add a position is nonnegotiable, as such a proposal would conflict with management’s right to hire under section 7106(a) of the Statute. On the merits, since the employees who are now stationed at Yaphank were reassigned from Brookhaven, a corresponding shift of support services is appropriate; in this regard, no new employees have been hired and, therefore, additional nurses cannot be justified, even on a temporary basis. Moreover, part-time coverage at Yaphank is adequate, given the relatively small number of employees stationed there, and the fact that an occupational health program is not intended as a substitute for private medical care.(3) Other factors which justify less than full-time coverage are: (1) approximately 20 employees, including a security officer, are trained in CPR; (2) first-aid kits are available on the premises; (3) Brookhaven Service Center is only 6 miles away, and employees are permitted to use the health unit there without taking leave; and (4) Brookhaven Memorial Hospital is only 2 miles away in the event of an emergency. Since Brookhaven’s staffing level for nurses already exceeds that of a comparable IRS facility, part-time coverage at Yaphank by existing staff is reasonable.(4)

    The Union’s proposal, which is estimated to cost $40,000 per year ($30,000 for a 9-month period), cannot be justified given the agency’s current fiscal situation; that is, it fails to recognize that budget constraints will require staff reductions in other parts of the agency. Moreover, no hard evidence has been provided by the Union which would justify a full-time nurse at Yaphank, even on a temporary basis. Since employees are split between two shifts, not all employees would have full-time coverage, even if a full-time nurse were to be provided. Finally, the staffing provisions for health programs which are set forth in the Internal Revenue Manual are only guidelines and need not be strictly followed.(5)

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union’s proposal is:

Brookhaven Service Center will conduct a test for 9 months of the provision of nursing services to the employees at the Yaphank facility. The test will commence in January 1997. During the test period, Brookhaven Service Center will provide 40 hours of nursing services per week at the Yaphank facility. During this test period, there will be no reduction in the hours of nursing services provided to the employees at the Holtsville facility. Management and NTEU will monitor the utilization of nursing services during the test period. At the conclusion of the test period, the parties will meet to revisit the issue.

In response to the Employer’s allegations of nonnegotiability, this proposal involves a matter which is within the scope of section 7106(b)(1) of the Statute and, therefore, the Employer is required to negotiate in accordance with the provisions of section 2.d. of Executive Order 12871. On the merits, a pilot program is desirable, as it would allow the parties to monitor the usage of nursing services at Yaphank to determine whether a full-time nurse is necessary. In this regard, there is no information regarding how frequently employees are seen by the nurse at Yaphank, nor are there any data on how often they travel to Brookhaven for health services. The proposal is consistent with section 0792.332 of the Internal Revenue Manual,(6) which allows for a full-time nurse at worksites with at least 300 employees. Moreover, a full-time nurse is justified, even on a temporary basis, since employees do not become ill according to a pre-arranged schedule. In addition, an employee who recently died of a heart attack at Yaphank may have been saved had a nurse been available to tend to him. Finally, one employee who suffers from high blood pressure may benefit from a full-time nurse, even on a temporary basis.

    The Employer’s proposal is inadequate because it would result in an unwarranted diminution of nursing coverage at Brookhaven. It also fails to recognize that Brookhaven Service Center is a 15-to- 20-minute drive from Yaphank and that employees are not likely to drive that distance if they are ill. Furthermore, first-aid kits and CPR training are not an adequate substitute for professional nursing care, as evidenced by the recent fatality at the Yaphank office. Finally, the Employer has not factored lost time, for employees who travel to Brookhaven for health services, into the cost of its proposal.

CONCLUSIONS

    After carefully considering the merits of the parties’ proposals in this case, it is unnecessary to address the Employer’s jurisdictional argument because we are persuaded that its proposal should be adopted to resolve the dispute. In our view, part-time nursing coverage at the Yaphank office should be adequate, given the number of employees assigned to that post of duty and the level of nursing coverage provided at a comparably-sized IRS office. While we recognize that this arrangement is less than ideal, we note that 20 hours per week of nursing coverage at Yaphank would be a significant increase over the current level. In addition, since the employees who are stationed at Yaphank were reassigned from Brookhaven, a corresponding shift of nursing support services from the main facility appears appropriate. Finally, given that IRS is facing staffing reductions in other parts of the agency, requiring the Employer to add a full-time position, even on a temporary basis, simply cannot be justified at this time. For these reasons, we shall order adoption of the Employer’s proposal.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by 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.

 

 

 

 

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

 

 

December 30, 1996

Washington, D.C.

1.There are 4,000 employees at Brookhaven only during peak season. The number of year-round employees is approximately 2,300.

2.Currently, nurses from Brookhaven provide 4 hours of coverage per week -- 2 hours on 2 separate days.

3.Section 0792.13 of the Internal Revenue Manual, entitled “Objectives of an Occupational Health Program,” provides in relevant part:

 

(1) Each health services program should be designed to assist each employee in maintaining and improving his/her health so that he may work as a productive individual. However, these programs should not aim at replacing the employee’s regular personal care.

In addition, section 0792.31, entitled “Limitation on Scope,” provides:

 

(1) Public Law 79-658 prescribes that employee health services shall be limited to:

(a) Treatments of on-the-job illnesses and dental conditions requiring emergency attention.

(b) Pre-employment and other examinations.

(c) Referral of employees to private physicians and dentists.

(d) Preventive programs relating to health.

4.Andover Service Center has one main processing facility, which has one full-time nurse (1 FTE). One of its satellite offices has a staff of approximately 600 employees; that office has nursing coverage for 6 hours per day (.75 FTE). A second satellite location has 425 employees; that facility has nursing coverage for 3 hours per day (.375 FTE). The total nursing coverage at Andover is approximately 2.13 FTEs. Brookhaven currently has nursing coverage at a level of 3 FTEs.

5.Section 0792.32 of the Manual, entitled “Applicability of Standards,” provides in relevant part:

(1) The standards recommended below are merely suggested elements of an employee health services program which are aimed at ensuring the operation of an adequate occupational health program; however, these guidelines are not intended to be absolute. There can be no rigid guidelines inasmuch as many factors ultimately govern, such as availability of funds, availability of physicians and nurses, accessibility of employees to be served, work force to be served, seasonal population fluctua