DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS VA MEDICAL CENTER MOUNTAIN HOME, TENNESSEE and LOCAL 1687, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
VA MEDICAL CENTER
MOUNTAIN HOME, TENNESSEE
Case No. 98 FSIP 87
LOCAL 1687, AMERICAN FEDERATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
ARBITRATOR'S OPINION AND DECISION
Local 1687, 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, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Medical Center, Mountain Home, Tennessee (Employer). After investigating the request for assistance, which concerns the location of Union parking spaces, the Panel directed the parties to submit the matter to the undersigned for mediation-arbitration by telephone. Accordingly, on April 21, 1998, the undersigned attempted to mediate the dispute. When those efforts failed to result in a settlement a brief arbitration hearing was conducted during which the parties presented their final offers and supporting evidence and arguments. In reaching this decision, I have considered the entire record.
The Employer is responsible for providing health care to veterans and their dependents. The Union represents approximately 1,000 bargaining-unit employees. They occupy positions such as nurse, doctor, dietician, and food service worker, and are included in a nationwide consolidated professional and non-professional bargaining unit of approximately 120,000 employees covered by a master collective bargaining agreement which is due to expire in March 2000. A local supplemental agreement between the parties, which was implemented in 1973, has been automatically renewed biennially, and remains in effect.
The impasse arose after the Employer exercised its option under the parties' local supplemental agreement to relocate the Union office to Building 160 in September 1997. The four available sites for the Union's spaces are Parking Lots A, C, and D, used primarily by bargaining-unit employees on a first-come-first-served basis, and Parking Lot B, which is reserved for Government vehicles and management officials. Lots A and D are made of gravel and contain enough space for approximately 90 and 45 vehicles, respectively. Lot A is at the front entrance of Building 160, and closest to the Union office. Lot D is the farthest from Building 160, approximately 450 feet from the Union's office. Lots B (12 parking spaces) and C (14 parking spaces) are paved, and closest to a side entrance near a loading dock.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The sole issue at impasse concerns where the Union's reserved parking spaces should be located.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Union's Position
The Union proposes that it be provided with two reserved spaces, either in Parking Lot B or Parking Lot C. While the Union is entitled to four spaces, it is willing to reduce the number to obtain its preferred location. This is the minimum number of spaces required to accommodate two elderly retirees who work part-time in the Union office. The sites it proposes would permit them quicker access to the building, albeit through the loading dock, during inclement weather. The Employer's offer of four reserved spaces in Parking Lots A or D is unacceptable for a number of reasons. The competition among bargaining-unit employees for spaces in Parking Lot A is normally intense because it is closest to the front entrance of Building 160. Reserving spaces in that lot, therefore, would promote hostility toward the Union. Parking Lot D, on the other hand, is too far away from Building 160 to be of benefit to the retirees during inclement weather. Finally, there is no merit to the Employer's contention that Parking Lot C should be reserved for possible future use by Government vehicles and the vehicles of the physically disabled. Among other things, Parking Lot C is basically a widened area in the street which is unsuitable for the use of the physically disabled.
2. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes to provide the Union with any four spaces in Parking Lots A or D. In this regard, Parking Lot A is closer to the Union's office than any of the other options, so reserving its spaces there is logical and appropriate. Conversely, the lots preferred by the Union are farther from the its office. In addition, there is currently major construction occurring adjacent to Building 160. It is conceivable that reserved parking in the construction area may need to be reduced in the future. Parking Lot C would be an appropriate site to relocate reserved parking for Government vehicles and the vehicles of the physically disabled. Providing the Union with reserved spaces in that lot, therefore, could turn out to be a short-term solution. If those spaces are later needed for other purposes, the issue would have to be revisited and another area designated.
Having carefully considered the parties' arguments and evidence in this case, I shall order the adoption of the Union's final offer to resolve the dispute. In my view, the Employer's concerns regarding its future requirements with respect to reserved parking are speculative and unpersuasive compared with the Union's demonstrated need for two spaces closer to a side-entrance of Building 160 for the use of its elderly part-time employees. Its willingness to reduce the number of reserved spaces it is entitled to from four to two should also help mitigate any adverse impact the adoption of its proposal would have on the Employer's ability to meet its future needs for reserved parking for Government vehicles and the vehicles of the physically disabled.