DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS VA CONNECTICUT HEALTH CARE SYSTEM NEWINGTON, CONNECTICUT AND LOCAL R1-109, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO

 

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

VA CONNECTICUT HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

NEWINGTON, CONNECTICUT

AND

LOCAL R1-109, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES,

SEIU, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 96 FSIP 125

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local R1-109, National Association of Government Employees, SEIU, AFL-CIO (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) 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 determination of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Va Connecticut Health Care System, Newington, Connecticut (Employer), not to establish a pilot 4-10 compressed work schedule (CWS)(1) for police officers at the Newington, Connecticut, campus, as proposed by the Union.

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved through written submissions. After considering the parties’ submissions and rebuttal statements, the Panel would take final action in accordance with § 6131(c) of the Act and § 2472.11 of its regulations. Pursuant to the Panel's determination, the parties’ written submissions and rebuttals were received and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer operates an "integrated," two-campus hospital facility for veterans: the larger, mainly inpatient facility is located at West Haven about 45 minutes by car from the smaller, primarily outpatient facility at Newington, Connecticut. Local R1-109 represents approximately 200 bargaining-unit employees who are in 2 nationwide units of 2,928 (Wage Grade) and 8,574 (General Schedule), respectively. The outcome of the dispute will affect 5 police officers located at the Newington Campus, who patrol the buildings and grounds; another 11 police officers located at the West Haven Campus are represented by a different union.(2) The parties are covered by a master collective bargaining agreement (MCBA) which is due to expire in May 1998, and a local agreement which tracks the MCBA with respect to its expiration. The parties also entered into a "Compressed and Alternative Work Schedule Agreement" (AWS agreement) in 1993 which provides for the establishment of compressed work schedules on a work-unit basis.(3)

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The specific issue before the Panel is the following:

Whether the agency head’s findings on which the Employer has based its determination not to establish the Union's proposed 4-10 CWS pilot are supported by evidence that the schedule is likely to cause an adverse agency impact as defined under the Act.(4)

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    At present, police officers at the Newington and West Haven campuses work the same three standard 8-hour shifts: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.(5) The proposed CWS would place the two segments of the police force on "incompatible" schedules, thereby disrupting management’s ability to reduce overtime costs by assigning officers interchangeably between the two campuses. In this regard, overtime is assigned every week to cover for police officers at Newington who call in at the last minute to request annual and sick leave. When officers at Newington are unavailable to fill in for such unplanned absences, officers from West Haven have been directed there during their regular tours of duty. Although the Union grieved two such instances, the parties’ 1991 overtime agreement "does not prohibit the agency from sending police officers from West Haven to Newington." In addition, since the full tour of duty would be 10 hours, all shifts at Newington would be extended by 2 hours, thereby increasing overtime costs and "reducing the officer’s . . . ability to react in security compromising situations." Finally, CWS are not working well at the two facilities cited by the Union. At the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Beckley, West Virginia, during a 6-month period under a CWS, employees accrued 695 overtime hours for unplanned absences; at the Submarine Base, Groton-New London, Connecticut, the employer only avoids overtime costs because it has the option of covering vacant shifts with military police. Also, their similarities to Newington are doubtful because neither facility has to coordinate work schedules with additional locations.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes that the five police officers at the Newington Campus be permitted to participate in a 6-month pilot to test a 4-10 CWS. Basically, the Employer has not established that the schedule would have an adverse agency impact. In this regard, since the schedule has yet to be subjected to a trial, the evidence the Employer presents is speculative at best. Furthermore, such schedules are being used successfully for police officers at Groton and Beckley where they have been in place for at least 2 years. As to police officers from West Haven filling in at Newington, the parties have yet to bargain over how detailing officers at the two facilities would be coordinated. Moreover, currently, West Haven police officers are not covered by the overtim