DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARMY & AIR FORCE EXCHANGE SERVICE DALLAS, TEXAS and LOCAL 2921, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

ARMY & AIR FORCE EXCHANGE SERVICE

DALLAS, TEXAS

and

LOCAL 2921, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 99 FSIP 119

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 2921, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) 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 Defense, Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Dallas, Texas (Employer).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse, arising from bargaining over a supplemental agreement, pursuant to the parties’ master collective bargaining agreement (MCBA), should be resolved through an informal conference with a Panel representative. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the Panel representative would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and the representative’s recommendations for resolving the matter. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Accordingly, Panel Chair Betty A. Bolden met with representatives of the parties at the Employer’s facility in Dallas, Texas, on August 17, 1999, but the issue at impasse was not resolved. Chair Bolden has reported to the Panel regarding the issue, and it has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer operates retail establishments, including department stores, gas stations, shopettes, and movie theaters, publishes a catalog, and offers deferred payment plans for military personnel and their dependents at bases throughout the United States and abroad. The Union represents approximately 1,650 nonappropriated fund, bargaining-unit employees at the AAFES Headquarters who are part of a consolidated, worldwide unit of approximately 17,000. At the print shop, they work in a variety of positions including machine operators, maintenance workers, and clericals. Elsewhere they work in positions such as computer programmer, accounting visual aide, contract specialist, buying assistant, copywriter, contract and computer technician, and secretary. The parties’ MCBA is due to expire on March 3, 2003.

ISSUES AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over the amount of "block official time" Union officials should receive when conducting labor-management business. They also disagree over the procedure Union representatives should follow when requesting block official time.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes the following wording:

    Article 12

Section 1: One Unit employee physically assigned to the Headquarters Building, as designated in writing by the Union, shall be granted 25% block official time for fulfilling Union representational duties for bargaining unit employees assigned to the HQ AAFES local bargaining unit. During this block official time, priority shall be given to representational duties such as, but not limited to, formal meetings and handling of grievances. As used herein, block official time shall be defined as two consecutive hours during each scheduled workday, taken at predetermined times based upon workload requirements as determined by the supervisor.

Section 2: Union representatives on official time are bound by the Master Labor Agreement, this Local Supplemental Agreement, and the administrative procedures of the Employer.

Section 3: The Union shall make every reasonable effort to appoint on-site stewards during all shifts where bargaining unit employees are assigned. Notwithstanding this requirement, employees of the Unit who are assigned to evening shifts during which no steward is on duty, may request one-half hour of official time at the end of their shift to prepare to meet with the Union representative during that representative’s block official time.

The Union has not demonstrated a need for a change from the status quo.(1) Nevertheless, to address the Union’s concerns, the Employer proposes that there be one Union representative at Headquarters on 25-percent official time to perform representational duties on behalf of the bargaining-unit employees located there. The size of the unit has declined since the Union first requested to negotiate block official time in 1995 and continues to decrease. The level of representational activity has been low and does not warrant two representatives on block official time. Furthermore, there is no evidence that any Union representative has been denied official time under the current practice. Its proposal, therefore, meets its stated interest of providing a reasonable level of representation, at a reasonable expense to AAFES. In addition, its proposal is designed to permit grievances to be resolved at the lowest possible level by on-site stewards who are familiar with the work situation, the employees, and supervisors, consistent with the MCBA. Finally, the efficient use of official time also avoids the unnecessary expenditure of funds that would otherwise be available to support morale, recreation, and welfare programs.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union’s proposal is as follows:

ARTICLE 12

SECTION ONE: Two Union representatives from the bargaining unit, to be designated by the Union, shall be granted block official time. One employee shall be granted 50% official block time and the second shall be granted 25% official block time for representational duties, formal meetings with Management, and other related non-internal Union duties.

This plan would be in effect for a one (1) year test period. At the end of the test period, either party could ask for FSIP assistance if impasse is reached.

SECTION TWO: The representatives would be able to meet with any bargaining unit employee from any shift as necessary, to be included in their official block time.

The proposed amounts of official time are reasonable for a bargaining unit of approximately 1,650 employees who work at three facilities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Union representatives have to travel to and from these locations because some do not have on-site representatives. Block official time is warranted because it would give the Union more flexibility to travel as necessary and to better enforce the MCBA and Supplemental Agreement. There would also be less conflict concerning denials of official time, and more predictability about when the Union representative would be on official time. In addition, use of block time to represent employees on any shift is justified because there are no Union representatives on other than the day shift; the use of block time would help alleviate the need for representatives to meet with bargaining-unit employees on their own time, as they have been doing.

CONCLUSIONS

    After carefully reviewing the record established by the parties regarding block official time, we conclude that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of a compromise approach. In this regard, two Union representatives shall be granted 25-percent block official time each to be used for representational duties, meetings with management, and other non-internal Union duties. One of the Union representatives will be physically assigned to the Headquarters Building to represent the AAFES Headquarters local bargaining-unit employees. The location of the second representative will be at the choice of the Union. On the remaining key issue of providing Union representation on shifts where none is available, the two representatives will be permitted to use portions of their block time to meet, as necessary, with bargaining-unit employees from any shift.

    In our view, this compromise combines the best aspects of both final offers by allowing the Union some flexibility without overburdening the Employer. It meets the Employer’s interest in having a representative assigned to the Headquarters office, yet still permits the Union some ability to have a representative with block official time in the other locations. Our approach reduces the amount of block official time proposed by the Union, which appears to be excessive given the level of representational activity to date, as evidenced by the record. On the other hand, it provides more block official time than proposed by the Employer because we are persuaded that greater consideration should be given to the relationship between the number of Union representatives and the size of the bargaining unit. Finally, the compromise also corrects the Employer proposal’s failure adequately to address the Union’s difficulty in meeting with employees who work on later shifts where no representative is available. Accordingly, the parties shall be ordered to adopt compromise wording consistent with the rationale provided above.

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 the proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders adoption of the following wording:

Article 12

SECTION ONE: Two Union representatives from the bargaining unit, to be designated by the Union in writing, shall be granted 25-percent block official time each to be used for representational duties, meetings with management, and other non-internal Union duties. One of the Union representatives shall be physically assigned to the HQ Building and assigned to represent the HQ AAFES local bargaining unit. The location of the second Union representative will be at the choice of the Union. Block time shall be defined as 25 percent of the Union representative’s normal workday, unless the supervisor and the employee