DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS VA CONNECTICUT HEALTHCARE 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 HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

NEWINGTON, CONNECTICUT

and

LOCAL R1-109, NATIONAL

ASSOCIATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, SEIU, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 97 FSIP 144

 

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) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of the Veterans Affairs (DVA), VA Connecticut Healthcare System, Newington, Connecticut (Employer).(1)

    After investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns the establishment of a compressed work schedule (CWS) for the mail room unit at the Newington facility (or campus), the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of single written submissions from the parties, after which a Decision and Order would be issued. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The VA Connecticut Healthcare System operates two hospitals (Newington and West Haven) which provide inpatient and outpatient health care services to veterans in Connecticut; the two facilities were previously operated separately, but have merged into one consolidated health care operation. The Union represents, at the local level, approximately 200 bargaining-unit employees at the Newington facility; employees at the West Haven facility are represented by another union. The parties are governed by the terms of the master agreement between DVA and NAGE, due to expire in May 1998, as well as a local supplement which runs concurrently with the master agreement. The Newington mail room unit has two employees assigned to it, only one of whom is a bargaining-unit member. The other is a compensated work therapy (CWT) veteran.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The sole issue in dispute is whether the Panel should order the Employer to establish a CWS for bargaining-unit employees in the Newington mail room.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes the following 4-10 CWS for bargaining-unit employees in the mail room unit for a 6-month trial period: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with Mondays off. The proposed schedule would provide adequate coverage for mail room functions because employees from West Haven currently substitute when the bargaining-unit employee in Newington takes annual or sick leave. Moreover, "at any time the agency has available to it resources with which to cover the mail room functions including filling vacant positions." The position description of the incumbent bargaining-unit employee who would be affected by the CWS states that her mail room duties are only "assistive in nature," further supporting the adoption of its proposal.(2) The 6-month trial period would allow the parties "to generate sufficient data to determine an ultimate arrangement."

2. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer opposes the CWS proposed by the Union because it would be incompatible with the core mail delivery hours, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5-days-a-week. In this regard, when the bargaining-unit employee is absent, there are scheduling, staffing, and coordination problems between the two campuses. Conversely, maintaining the status quo avoids the need on a regular basis to bring in either an employee or