FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION HEADQUARTERS WASHINGTON, D.C. and CHAPTER 207, NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION

In the Matter of

FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION

HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Case No. 99 FSIP 158

and

CHAPTER 207, NATIONAL TREASURY

EMPLOYEES UNION

 

ARBITRATOR’S OPINION AND DECISION

    The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Headquarters, Washington, D.C. (Employer or Agency) 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 Chapter 207, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU or Union). After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel asserted jurisdiction and directed that the parties’ dispute, concerning an office selection procedure, be submitted to the undersigned for mediation-arbitration.

    Accordingly, on December 2, 1999, the undersigned met with the parties at the Panel’s offices in Washington, D.C. At the outset, the undersigned engaged in mediation efforts to assist the parties in resolving the issue. When the parties were unable to settle the matter, the parties were afforded the opportunity to provide their last best offer, supporting statements and documentation. The record in this matter is now closed.

BACKGROUND

    The Agency’s mission is to: (1) insure deposits in national banks and state banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System (FRS), and savings and loans institutions that are members of the Savings Association Insurance Fund; and (2) examine periodically insured State banks that are not members of FRS. The Union represents a bargaining unit of employees at FDIC Headquarters in Washington, D.C., one of three units represented by NTEU; the other two are a consolidated unit of Field employees and a consolidated unit of Divisions of Supervision and Compliance and Consumer Affairs employees. The Headquarters unit consists of approximately 1,531 General Grade and Wage Grade employees in various professional and nonprofessional positions (e.g., attorney, economist, and data processing clerk) whose pay and benefits are set by a negotiated compensation agreement which was recently renegotiated and is due to expire on December 31, 2002. The FDIC Headquarters and NTEU master collective bargaining agreement (HQMCBA) is due to expire on January 27, 2002.

ISSUE

    The parties disagree over the employee office selection procedure to be utilized whenever a "work unit" is relocated.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer maintains that the current system: (1) is overly burdensome in that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell when a work unit was created, who is in the unit, and when were the employees assigned to the unit, thereby making a "time in unit" determination subject to interpretation and the cause of relocation delays; (2) penalizes those who try to broaden their abilities and experience by occasionally changing work units and, accordingly, is contrary to the Employer's diversity mission which provides that "the FDIC achieves its mission by creating an inclusive work environment that recognizes and appreciates all employees' perspectives and talents, and allows employees opportunities to reach their highest potential . . . ;" and (3) is unfair to current FDIC employees who were transferred by law from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB), the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC), and the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to the FDIC, because they will always have less unit seniority than those FDIC employees who were in the unit at time of their transfer.(1)

    The Employer proposes to improve the situation with a "pilot program" under which employees would select offices by grade (from highest to lowest), with ties broken by seniority in grade, then seniority in the Agency (includes cumulative service in the FDIC, RTC, and the FSLIC), and finally seniority in the "work unit." The pilot program would continue until the expiration of the current HQMCBA. The Employer will evaluate this program and its effects during the term of the pilot. The Employer also proposes specific definitions of "seniority in service" and "seniority in grade."

2. The Union's Position

    The Union submits that the Employer grossly exaggerates the administrative burden under the current system noting that all divisions and offices have the ability to query the National Finance Center (NFC) or the FDIC Administrative Support and Tracking (FAST) systems and have access to reporting tools (such as FOCUS, Forest and Trees, and Oracle) which can automate the administrative process and eliminate the Employer’s cumbersome on-line method of retrieving information. Furthermore, it notes that it has been 4 years since the last group of employees was transferred from other agencies to the FDIC by law. The Union asserts that employees who were transferred to FDIC are not unfairly disadvantaged under the current procedure because many work groups have been completely reorganized since the last group of employees was transferred to FDIC. Finally, the Union asserts that diversity does not imply that employees who move from unit to unit should receive priority consideration for office spaces.

    The Union proposes that the parties conduct a joint survey of all bargaining-unit employees assigned to Headquarters. The survey would ask whether the employees prefer to select offices based upon grade and seniority within a unit (the status quo which is preferred by the Union) or based upon grade, time in grade, seniority in service, and time in unit (the Employer's proposal). The parties would implement an office selection procedure reflecting a simple majority of the results of the survey. The procedure would be uniform and apply to all office selections affecting Headquarters FDIC employees.

OPINION

    When a work unit moves, the parties agree that employees select office space according to grade. At issue is the criteria utilized for tiebreakers.(2) The Employer avers that its proposal is fairer to all employees and will make office selection more predictable, easier to verify, and will save time in the administration of work unit moves. In addition, it maintains that its proposal will not discourage employees from changing work units to participate in FDIC diversity initiatives and will treat all bargaining-unit employees equally regardless of division, prior service, or prior work unit.

    The Employer submits that because its proposal is a "pilot program" it is easier to evaluate the impact of the change, collect pertinent information and make adjustments to lessen any unforseen negative impacts on employees.

    In support of the current selection procedure, the Union asserts that: (1) the status quo policy has been in effect for the past 10 years without any significant complaints; (2) employees can easily verify the accuracy of selection lists under the current policy with their personal knowledge of when new employees entered the work unit; and (3) the current system is the most fair method of office selection because it rewards those employees who have the greatest amount of seniority within their work units and are most familiar with the work unit's institutional history and workload.

    Noting that the office relocation procedure is utilized when an office or work group is physically moved to another location, the length of time since the last group of employees were transferred to the FDIC, and that the Employer stated that many work units have been reorganized in recent years, I cannot find that the Employer's proposal has less of an adverse employee impact than the current procedure.

    With respect to the administrative burden, the Employer revealed that the work unit data in the system is not always accurate and requires a great deal of administrative time to correct. In light of current computer/data base technology, I do not know how much more efficient the Employer’s proposal would be compared to the current procedure with better data management.

    Finally, I am not certain that an office relocation procedure will adversely affect an employee's willingness to pursue advancement opportunities and become an impediment t