DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE AIR FORCE RESERVES GRISSOM AIR FORCE BASE, INDIANA and LOCAL 3254, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

AIR FORCE RESERVES

GRISSOM AIR FORCE BASE, INDIANA

 

 

 

 

 

Case No. 99 FSIP 105

and

LOCAL 3254, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

 

 

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3254, 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 (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of the Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana (Employer).

    Following investigation of the request for assistance, which involves an impasse over a change in workhours for certain night shift employees, the Panel directed the parties to submit their final offers and written statements of position, with supporting argument and evidence. After considering the entire record, the Panel would then issue a binding decision to resolve the impasse. Written submissions, including rebuttal statements, were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer is an Air Force Reserve unit whose civilian employees support the flying mission by refueling and servicing aircraft. The bargaining unit consists of approximately 500 professional and nonprofessional employees in a wide range of General Schedule and Wage Grade (WG) positions, such as air craft mechanic, fuel technician, air traffic controller, civil engineer, accountant, firefighter, security guard, boom operator, carpenter, and secretary. The parties’ collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) went into effect in October 1998, for a 3-year period.

    The dispute arose as a result of the Employer’s proposal to change the quitting time from 1 a.m. to 12 a.m. for night shift employees in the Aircraft Generation Squadron (AGS), an organizational entity within the 434th Air Refueling Wing. Those affected are primarily WG-10 blue collar employees who work under a 5-4/9 compressed work schedule (CWS)(1) and perform maintenance and pre-flight service on aircraft; their workload depends on the flying schedule.

    In AGS, employees work either a day or night shift and may select from several work schedules which remain in effect for 180 days; thereafter, employees must rebid for shifts. Pursuant to Article 22, Section 5, of the CBA, they may elect to work "consistent with mission requirements" a 5-4/9 or 4/10(2) CWS, a flexitour,(3) or a fixed 8-hour schedule from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a 1-hour lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Day shift employees in AGS may start as early as 6:30 a.m. and, depending upon the type of work schedule and the duration of the lunch period, their quitting time ranges between 3 and 4:30 p.m. On the night shift, three employees on a 5-4/9 CWS currently work from 3:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., on their 9-hour days; one other employee works a 5-4/9 CWS with hours from 2:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. on the 9-hour days; others on the night shift have elected to work an 8-hour flexitour schedule from 3:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over whether quitting time for the night shift should be moved back 1 hour to 12 a.m.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    In essence, the Employer proposes that the night shift (second shift) end at 12 a.m.; the starting times for the night shift would be dependent upon the work schedule requested and approved. Employees who claim to experience a hardship because of this change may request an accommodation pursuant to the procedures agreed upon by the parties on March 30, 1999.(4) Hardship is defined as a bona fide condition difficult to endure. This schedule change, which would result in employees on a 5-4/9 CWS starting work no later than 2:30 p.m. on their 9-hour days, is necessary because aircraft maintenance demands are highest during the mid-afternoon period when employee coverage is least predictable. Moving the ending time of the night shift back 1 hour to 12 a.m. would maximize the presence of maintenance personnel during the time of day when they are most needed, that is, at the beginning of the night shift. The aircraft flying schedule dictates that the bulk of maintenance personnel are needed during day shift hours. Having night shift employees start earlier would increase the time when the two shifts overlap, thereby facilitating communications. Most meetings occur, and more base functions are available during day shift hours, which increases the need for more AGS personnel to be present during that time, all of which affects service and production efforts. A change in the night shift ending time would not infringe upon an employee’s right to work under a CWS or flexitour. In this regard, the Employer is not terminating alternative work schedules, but merely changing the ending time of the night shift in order to enhance mission accomplishment.(5)

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes that night shift employees who work under a 5-4/9 CWS continue to have the option of starting work at 3:30 p.m. and finishing at 1 a.m. The proposal represents a long-standing work schedule, around which employees have adjusted their lives. Moreover, the Air Force’s own regulation, Instruction 36-807, requires that Commanders keep to a minimum changes in established work schedules and make changes only when necessary to resolve operation problems. Here, there is no demonstrated need to make the changes proposed by the Employer. Furthermore, the Employer has failed to provide any evidence that the current schedule is causing an adverse agency impact. Since the work in AGS is primarily "scheduled," requiring night shift employees to start earlier would not enhance the accomplishment of the mission. Rather, work could be scheduled and performed later in the day instead of concentrating it between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Even if employees were to start at 2:30 p.m., the change would not relieve the work of day shift employees.

    Currently, most other employees on the night shift do not have to start work until 3:30 p.m.; there is no reason for requiring this small group of employees (currently three) to start earlier, particularly when there is documentation which shows that, at least for the period from November 16, 1998, through March 14, 1999, the majority of take offs and landings occurred on the night shift. There is an operational need to retain the current work schedule, which allows employees to work beyond 12 a.m. In this regard, "on several occasions over the last few weeks alone," aircraft have landed at 10 p.m., or later, thereby requiring AGS employees to work after 12 a.m. servicing the aircraft, preparing the close-out paperwork, cleaning up and shutting down the section. Thus, having a work schedule which allows employees to work after 12 a.m. saves on overtime which otherwise would have to be paid if the shift ended at 12 a.m. The minimum manning requirements for the day and night shifts are "more than covered by the workforce on hand at this time." Finally, the purpose of alternative work schedules is to allow employees flexibility to meet needs at home. Since all work requirements are being met, the schedule should be retained without change.

CONCLUSIONS

        After carefully considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we are persuaded that, on balance, the Employer’s proposal provides the better basis for resolving the dispute. In our view, the Employer has demonstrated that adjusting night shift hours would concentrate personnel during the time of day when more work coverage is needed. In this regard, the aircraft flying schedule appears to dictate that more maintenance personnel are required during day shift hours than at the end of the current night shift. Moreover, the Union’s contention that the change will increase overtime costs is speculative. Turning to some of the other reasons the Union provides for opposing the change, there is no evidence in the record to substantiate its contention that implementing the Employer’s proposal would adversely affect the family lives of employees. While sympathizing with employees whose personal lives may be disrupted, we note that they may avail themselves of the procedures for hardship exemptions which the parties have negotiated. Furthermore, even if the Union is correct in pointing out that the majority of aircraft takeoffs and landings occurred on the night shift between November 16, 1998, and March 14, 1999, there is no indication whether this continues at the present time, or occurred only during that 4-month period. Finally, although the Union maintains that recently there have been a number of aircraft landings after 10 p.m., it failed to provide any evidence as to whether those late-night landings are routine or infrequent. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of the Employer’s proposal.

ORDER

    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Servi