DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE PLANT, PROTECTION AND QUARANTINE BALTIMORE, MARYLAND AND BRANCH 006, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF AGRICULTURE EMPLOYEES

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION

SERVICE

PLANT, PROTECTION AND QUARANTINE

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

AND

BRANCH 006, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF AGRICULTURE EMPLOYEES

Case No. 96 FSIP 143

DECISION AND ORDER

    Branch 006, National Association of Agriculture Employees (NAAE or 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 Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant, Protection and Quarantine, Baltimore, Maryland (PPQ or Employer).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which involved negotiations over generic groundrules for all future negotiations in the Baltimore office, the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with Panel Representative (Staff Attorney) Lori K. Grant for the purpose of resolving the outstanding issues. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Ms. Grant 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. Grant on October 30, 1996, but they were unable to resolve the issue in dispute.(1) Ms. Grant has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to regulate the importation and exportation of goods, cargo, and carry-on luggage through the Baltimore-Washington International airport and the Baltimore port, in order to protect American animals and agriculture. The Union is the exclusive representative of 790 employees, 11 of whom work in the Baltimore office. These employees include PPQ officers and technicians, who are responsible for clearing international cargo, processing passengers, and operating x-ray machines to detect contraband. The master collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) between the parties expired in May 1991, and they are currently negotiating over a successor agreement.

ISSUE

    The parties disagree over whether the Employer should be required to pay for the travel and per diem expenses of the Union’s nonport representatives when the Employer elects to include its own nonport representatives in local bargaining at the Baltimore office.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union’s Position.

    The Union’s proposal is as follows:

In the event management elects to bring any member(s) of its negotiating team from outside the port, the Union shall be entitled to select as its negotiators an equal number of non-port members to attend and participate at full Government official time (up to 8 hours per day), unless such non-port Union representative selected to participate is stationed in the Northeast Region, in which case that representative’s participation shall be at full government travel and per diem as well as on official time (up to 8 hours per day). If, however, management selects the Maryland State Plant Health Director as a nonport member of its negotiating team and if the Union selects a nonport representative as a part of its negotiating team, such nonport Union representative shall participate at full official time (up to 8 hours per day) only regardless of where he or she is stationed.

Its proposal is "eminently fair" because the Employer would control when the requirement to pay the travel and per diem expenses of the Union’s nonport representatives is triggered. If the Employer believes that it is necessary for its nonport representatives to participate in local bargaining, the Union should have the same opportunity, particularly since its local representative is relatively inexperienced. In this regard, the proposal would ensure that there is parity between the parties concerning their level of expertise in collective bargaining. Although the Employer has agreed to provide official time, whether or not the Employer’s nonport representatives participate, this is meaningless because the Union cannot afford to pay for its own travel and per diem expenses. Moreover, since the Union’s travel expenses would be limited to the Northeast Region, there would be minimal impact on the Employer’s budget.(2) Finally, the Union is willing to assist the Employer in minimizing expenses by making a "concerted effort" to travel to the Baltimore office in a carpool or a Government-owned vehicle (GOV).

2. The Employer’s Position.

    The Employer proposes the following:

The Agency is willing to offer the use of a Government-owned vehicle when it is available for the Union negotiator’s travel as long as that negotiator is an APHIS, PPQ, NER employee, and the travel is in connection with scheduled union/management negotiations. Alternatively, and when it is reasonable, the Agency will offer carpooling for the Union negotiator with the Agency representative.

This proposal maintains the current practice of requiring each party to pay for its own travel and per diem expenses. In essence, the Employer "reserves the right to unilaterally make the decision on whom and when to pay travel and per diem." It has compromised sufficiently by permitting the Union’s nonport representatives to participate in local bargaining at full official time. It cannot afford to give the Union a "blank check" for travel expenses, particularly when the Union has sufficient funds to pay its own expenses. In this regard, a recent change in local Union leadership makes it likely that there will be a drastic increase in the amount of formal bargaining at the Baltimore office, which would necessitate a significant increase in nonport involvement. As a result, the Union’s travel expenses could be quite costly if its national representatives must routinely fly to Baltimore, Maryland. The Employer is willing, however, to allow the Union’s nonport representative to travel to the Baltimore office either by carpooling with management or by driving a GOV.

CONCLUSION

    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented, we conclude that the Union’s proposal would provide the more reasonable resolution of this dispute. In our view, its proposal would ensure parity between the parties while also permitting the Employer to maintain control over its budget. In this regard, the Employer will decide when to invoke the groundrule, based upon its determination that a higher level of negotiating expertise is necessary. We find that in order to keep the parties on a level playing field, the Union should have the same opportunity to include its nonport representatives in local bargaining. We are also persuaded that adoption of the Union’s proposal would have a minimal impact on the Employer’s budget, since travel would be limited to the Northeast Region, and the Union has agreed to carpool or use a GOV where possible. For these reasons, we shall order the parties to adopt the Union’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 Union’s proposal.

 

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

December 17, 1996

Washington, D.C.

 

1.Prior to the Panel proceeding, the parties reached an agreement on three of the four groundrules in dispute.

2.The Northeast Region encompasses 19 states which range from West Virginia