[ v19 p1123 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
19 FLRA No. 126 DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE MIAMI, FLORIDA Respondent and NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION Charging Party Case No. 4-CA-552 DECISION AND ORDER The Administrative Law Judge issued the attached Decision in the above-entitled proceeding finding that the Respondent had engaged in certain unfair labor practices alleged in the complaint, and recommending that it be ordered to cease and desist therefrom and take certain affirmative action. The Judge further found that the Respondent had not engaged in certain other alleged unfair labor practices and recommended dismissal of the complaint with respect to them. Exceptions to the Judge's Decision were filed by the Respondent and the General Counsel. An opposition to the Respondent's exceptions was filed by the Charging Party. Pursuant to section 2423.29 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations and section 7118 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), the Authority has reviewed the rulings of the Judge made at the hearing and finds that no prejudicial error was committed. The rulings are hereby affirmed. Upon consideration of the Judge's Decision and the entire record, the Authority hereby adopts the Judge's findings, conclusions and recommended Order, as modified herein. In Veterans Administration, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Muskogee, Oklahoma, 19 FLRA No. 122 (1985), issued subsequent to the Judge's Decision, the Authority concluded that actual representation by an exclusive representative at a "formal discussion" is sufficient to demonstrate compliance with the requirement of section 7114(a)(2)(A) that such an exclusive representative "be given an opportunity to be represented." On this basis it is concluded, in disagreement with the Judge, that no violation of section 7116(a)(1) and (8) has been established concerning the July 9 meeting herein. The Authority also disagrees with the Judge's conclusion that the Respondent's conduct at the meeting constituted a bypass of the Union in violation of section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Statute. In so finding, the Authority notes particularly that there is no evidence that management attempted to deal or negotiate directly with employees on matters properly bargainable with their representative. See Internal Revenue Service (District, Region, National Office Units), 19 FLRA No. 48 (1985); Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, 19 FLRA No. 56 (1985). Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the complaint herein should be dismissed in its entirety. ORDER IT IS ORDERED that the complaint in Case No. 4-CA-552 be, and it hereby is, dismissed. Issued, Washington, D.C., August 30, 1985 Henry B. Frazier III, Acting Chairman William J. McGinnis, Jr., Member FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY -------------------- ALJ$ DECISION FOLLOWS -------------------- Case No. 4-CA-552 Marc L. Barbakoff, Esq. Allan Pedrazas, Esq. For the Respondent Linda J. Norwood, Esq. Edward P. Nichols, Esq. For the General Counsel For the Respondent Before: WILLIAM NAIMARK Administrative Law Judge DECISION Statement of the Case Pursuant to a Complaint and Notice of Hearing issued on November 13, 1980 by the Acting Regional Director for the Federal Labor Relations Authority, Atlanta Region, a hearing was held before the undersigned on January 3, 1981 at Coral Gables, Florida. This case arises under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (herein called the Act). It is based upon a charge filed on August 14, 1980 by National Treasury Employees Union (herein called the charging party or Union) against the Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Miami, Florida (herein called the Respondent). The complaint herein alleged that on or about July 9, 1980, and during the last week of July 1980, Respondent conducted meetings with unit employees re personnel policies, practices and other general conditions of employment. Further, that by such acts Respondent (a) failed to comply with Section 7114(a)(2)(A) of the Act and refused to bargain in good faith in violation of 7116(a)(1) and (5) thereof, (b) failed to comply with Section 7114(a)(2)(A) of the Act and failed to give the Union an opportunity to be represented at a formal meeting in violation of 7116(a)(1) and (8) thereof. Respondent filed an answer dated December 4, 1980 in which it admitted that on or about July 9, 1980 it conducted a meeting with the employees, but denied the commission of any unfair labor practices. Both parties were represented at the hearing, each was afforded full opportunity to be heard, to adduce evidence, and to examine as well as cross-examine witnesses. Thereafter briefs were filed with the undersigned which have been duly considered. /1/ Upon the entire record in this case, from my observation of the witnesses and their demeanor, and from all of the testimony and evidence adduced at the hearing, I make the following findings and conclusions: Findings of Fact 1. At all times material herein the Union has been, and still is, the collective bargaining representative of Respondent's non-supervisory employees (Customs, Region IV). 2. Respondent employs import specialists, whose principal duties are to make certain that merchandise entering the country is admissible and the proper duty thereon is collected. The specialist reviews the entry documents, and he is obliged to classify and appraise the goods received. Other tasks performed by these employees include (a) dealing with the import broker community and handling problems arising with the broker, (b) checking on reports involving liquidation of entries to make certain import specialists receives proper notification of entries and relevant documents, (c) assure that, under Entry Processing System, coded sheets are furnished the computer operator for programming into the computer system. /2/ 3. The import specialist, together with an assistant, comprises a team, and there are 11 teams employed by Respondent (9 in the Miami, Florida District Office). Each such specialist is termed the "team leader", and these employees report to two supervisory import specialists. Marshall Chwast and Anthony Russo. 4. Prior to April 1980, /3/ staff meetings were usually held about once each month although it was not a formalized procedure. In a memorandum dated April 15 John R. Gray, Director of Classification and Value Division, announced that a staff meeting would take place every second Wednesday of each month. /4/ It was also stated therein that all persons attending "are encouraged to provide topics for discussion prior to the meeting." Supervisor Chwast testified that the purpose of these meetings was to discuss items that would affect the work of import specialists, new policies, new guidelines received from headquarters-- things coming up daily that management needed to discuss with import specialists. 5. In accordance with the aforesaid announcement supervisors Chwast and Russo conducted an import specialist meeting on July 9. No notification was given by management to the Union, nor did Respondent consider that it was required to afford the bargaining agent an opportunity to attend the meeting. /5/ In addition to the supervisors heretofore mentioned, twelve import specialists attended the meeting at which seventeen subjects were discussed. The topics were, for the most part, selected by the supervisors, although questions were raised by the import specialist. The main areas of discussion centered around the following: A. Morning Report-- management advised that a report would be kept by the supervisor of Classification and Value Employees on a bi-weekly basis, showing those individuals who are at work, on sick and annual leave, or on formal training. A new form was devised by Director Gray for this purpose. B. K Report-- it was stated by Chwast that this report, which each employee fills out to reflect the type of work he is performing, had not been completed correctly. The supervisor indicated some of the mistakes which were made, and advised the employees that Xerox copies of the report would be sufficient. /6/ C. Accept Program-- This is a program which deals with the accelerated release of cargo at the port. It is a computer-based system permitting such acceleration. The criteria to be put into the computer is prepared by the import specialist for certain merchandise. Since there had been considerable delay in releasing cargo, Respondent (through headquarters) decided to change its program in certain respects. Thus, it was stated by the supervisor at the July 9 meeting that effective August 1 all items other than quota class merchandise would be released on a CF 3461 form (Customs Entry). As a result thereof, the import specialist had to develop new criteria as input into the system, and this entailed reprogramming the computer. Further, more merchandise would now be released on the 3461. D. Samples-- in performing his required duties, the specialist had occasion to take samples of imported merchandise to make certain that the classification was right. Each such employee received and returned his own samples. It was stated at the meeting that henceforth a particular individual would handle the samples for all teams and take care of the mailing. This changed the procedure as well as altered the responsibility for this duty. E. Training Applications-- employees were informed that those who attended classes concerning the new Value Law /7/ must fill out certificates attesting to their attendance. F. APP-1-Importers Premises-- under the existing rule import specialists are required to visit importers who bring in large amounts of merchandise and discuss with them the classification and appraisement. The supervisors told the specialists to make those visits at least once a month. Some discussion ensued, as a result of a question by an employee, re the use of privately owned vehicles, and management suggested the use of government cars for this purpose. G. Staffing-- announcements were made re assignment of named assistants to import specialists. Several of the latter individuals requested assistance, and Chwast agreed to provide help to the specialist. This procedure was followed in the past, and did not represent a departure or change by Respondent. H. Information Bulletin-- import specialist Allen Vitow suggested that a bulletin be issued re a countervailing duty on certain textiles from India. This matter was discussed, and Vitow prepared a draft of this information bulletin. 6. In addition to discussing the various subjects /8/ at the meeting on July 9, as heretofore set forth, the supervisors informed the import specialists at this meeting that a Transaction Value Committee would be established. The purpose of the Committee was to receive questions from import specialists re the new Transaction Value Law and act as a forum for the discussion of problems raised by the statute. After discussion among the Committee members, the problems would be discussed with the supervisors. It was not intended that the Committee would implement policies or issue directives. Past practice called for the supervisors to declare policy when the effect for new statute was questioned. The appointed members of the Committee were Allen Vitow, Bob Kramer, and Jo Bronson Harris-- all bargaining unit employees. 7. In late July the Committee met to discuss an issue raised by Vitow re the deductibility of freight changes on certain 807 merchandise (wearing apparel) under the new law. This meeting was conducted by Chwast. Since the question dealt with considerable merchandise, the proper application of freight charges involved sizeable revenues. No solution was reached re the issue raised at the Committee meeting, nor was any policy announced by management in regard thereto. No other meetings were held by the Committee. Conclusions General Counsel contends that Respondent ran afoul of the Act by holding formal meetings with its employees without notifying the Union and affording it an opportunity to be present thereat. By conducting such sessions, both on July 9 and in late July, the employer allegedly failed to comply with Section 7114(a)(2)(A) of the Act. Accordingly, it is contended that Respondent violated Sections 7116(a)(1) and (8) thereof. Further, General Counsel maintains that such conduct constituted a bypassing of the Union herein and was therefore violative of 7116(a)(1) and (5). Respondent takes the position that the items it discussed at the meetings are not properly characterized as personnel policies, practices or conditions of employment. It insists that the July 9 session was a routine staff meeting and instructional in nature. The employer was endeavoring, it avers, to clarify certain procedures or practices rather than institute any changes. Moreover, Respondent notes that much of the discussion ensued as a result of questions posed by the employees, which belies any attempt by management to conduct a formal meeting re working conditions. It is also maintained that since the shop steward was present at the July 9 meeting and had an opportunity to participate thereat, the failure to notify the Union officially should not warrant finding that the employer failed to comply with the statute. In the public sector an obligation is imposed upon an employer to notify a bargaining representative and allow it to be present where certain discussions take place with employees. Under Section 7114(a)(2)(A) the representative must be given an opportunity to be represented at any formal discussion between the agency and employees concerning any grievance, personnel policy or practices or other general conditions of employment. In the case at bar Respondent urges that this statutory language should apply solely to instances where an agency seeks to initiate changes in practices or working conditions. However, such contention was rejected in Internal Revenue Service, Atlanta District Office, Atlanta, Georgia A/SLMR No. 1014. The Assistant Secretary in the cited case refused to construe Section 10e of the Order (the predecessor to Section 7114(a)(2)(A)) as to encompass only discussions re changes or proposed changes in policies, practices or working conditions. While not conceding that it was required to notify the Union of the meeting on July 9, Respondent asserts the bargaining agent was represented by the fact that the shop steward, a unit employee, was present thereat. I do not agree that the presence of Sherri Hurt at the meeting was a fulfillment of any duty owed by management to give notification to the Union. As per the stipulation between the parties herein, the president of the Union, Frank Carelli, was the proper person to contact re formal meetings between management and the bargaining agent. There is no showing that shop steward Hurt customarily attended formal meetings as a union representative. Neither does it appear that she was present on July 9 as a union official or afforded an opportunity to participate in that capacity. Thus, I cannot conclude that representation was afforded the bargaining agent by management merely by virtue of the presence at the meeting of this employee. See Department of the Navy, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, A/SLMR No. 1003. In determining whether Respondent was obliged to notify the Union of its meetings, as well as afford it an opportunity to be represented, the decisive consideration is the nature of the meetings. If the latter were in fact instructional, or called merely to disseminate information, it cannot be concluded that formal discussions occurred thereat. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Chicago District, Chicago, Illinois, A/SLMR No. 1120. A. July 9 meeting with employees Of the seventeen topics discussed at the July 9 meeting, it is clear that many were concerned with instructing employees in respect to filling out forms, imparting information to the employees, reminding the latter of their duties, or dealing with routine requirements on the job. Included in these categories are, in my opinion, these subjects: (a) Certificate of Training Applications, (b) July 2, 1980 Federal Register, (c) Information Bulletin-Countervailing Duty, (d) Missing Documents, /9/ (g) No Change Stamp, (h) Federal Registers, (i) File Room, (j) Supplies. I do not deem these subjects to be properly embraced within the term "formal discussions" since, in most instances, they involve ministerial and clerical functions or reminders from management as to routine procedures which were in effect at all times. Further, in many instances the subjects discussed arose by virtue of questions raised by the import specialists. /10/ As to these situations, the meeting was not thereby transformed into a formal discussion. See Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Social Security Administration, BRSI, Northeastern Program Service Center, A/SLMR No. 957. The remaining topics discussed at the July 8 meeting were: (a) Transaction Value Committee, (b) Staffing, (c) K-Report, (d) Accept Program, (e) APP-1 Importers Premises, (f) Mailing of Samples. General Counsel insists that the discussion re these items involved either personnel policies, practices, or conditions of employment, and thus a failure to notify the appropriate Union official and allow him to attend was violative of the Act. Accordingly, it is necessary to consider these subjects in seriatim to determine if this contention is meritorious. (a) Transaction Value Committee General Counsel maintains that the announcement of the Transaction Value Committee constituted a formal discussion within the language of Section 7114(a)(2)(A) of the Act. It avers that the questions submitted to the Committee, and the discussion of same, involves working conditions. This particular group was set up by Respondent by virtue of the new law which might pose special valuation problems for the import specialists handling 807 wearing apparel. It was established as a forum to obtain questions from those specialists which would be presented to the employee-Committee. After the latter unit had obtained these queries, it was intended that the group would meet with management. Thus the express purpose of this Committee was to solicit questions or problems from the employees, who handled this particular merchandise, which arose as a result of the new Value Transaction Law. In this posture, I deem the instant case to be similar to the situation present in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, D.C. and Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, 3 FLRC 617, FLRC No. 74A-95 (1975). In the cited case meetings were conducted with employees for the purpose of soliciting opinions as the EEO program of the agency. The Federal Labor Relations Council found that the conduct of the agency in evaluating the program, which existed apart from the collective bargaining relationship, did not require the employer to permit the presence of the exclusive representative at said meetings. The Committee herein was formed to solicit questions and views re the new law. While it may be true that discussion will ultimately take place in respect to changes in valuing 807 articles, that stage has not been reached. Utilizing this vehicle for information-gathering purposes is not tantamount, in my opinion, to conducting discussion re making conditions. Accordingly, I find that the establishment of the Transaction Value Committee was not a formal meeting so as to require that the Union be afforded an opportunity to be present thereat. (b) Staffing Import Specialist Vitow testified that, at the meeting, it was stated by a supervisor that certain assistant import specialists would be switched from one team to another; that this was standard policy to do so once each year. The minutes of the meeting further indicate that one specialist asked Chwast for help on his team since her helper was on sick leave. The supervisor agreed to provide her with assistance. While staffing per se is a subject matter which may well involve working conditions, I am not persuaded that, in the context presented at the July 9 meeting, the statements re assignment of assistants may be properly characterized as a formal discussion thereof. Apart from the fact that such assignment of assistants was routine in nature, the limited testimony by Vitow does not reflect that management attempted to engage in a dialogue re staffing. Neither does it appear that Respondent intended to either reduce its staff of import specialists or take any action which would affect their employment. Further, to the extent that the minutes of the meeting indicate action taken, as comments made, by management concerning the specialist, they were neither explicated or amplified by testimony presented on behalf of the General Counsel. In this posture, I am constrained to conclude the Union would have little interest to protect by attending the meeting. Accordingly, I conclude the failure to include the Bargaining agent to address this issue was not in contention of Section 7114(a)(2)(A). (c) K-Report General Counsel contends that since this report concerned the productivity of the employee, a discussion of the proper method of filling it out constituted a formal discussion. /11/ I cannot agree. The K-Report, which the specialists filled out, indicated the type of work done on a given month by the individual. No change was made by Respondent in respect thereto, nor did management attempt to discuss the basic information which comprised the report. Chwast merely informed the import specialist, as revealed in the minutes and the testimony by Vitow, that some of the blanks (or boxes) on the form had not been completed. He further stated the form was being filled out improperly since the wrong information had been inserted in a particular box. I construe these comments to be instructional in nature with no intent by Respondent to by-pass the bargaining agent. See Department of the Treasury, et al. supra. The discussion re the incorrect completion of forms is not, in my opinion, equitable with an attempt by management to discuss the type of work performed by employees or to change the contents thereof. An explanation how to fill out forms, or why there were incorrections in so doing, is not embraceable within the terms "formal discussion" of working conditions. Hence, I conclude Respondent was not obliged to afford the Union to be present doing the instructions re the K-Report. (d) Accept Program Respondent takes the position that the change in the Accept Program dealt with the utilization of a Customs form, and that it did not affect the work of the unit employees. It argues that the presence of the Union representative is not required at the meeting despite the announcement by the supervisor in respect to the change. Record facts, however, do reflect that the change in the program did have an impact upon the duties imposed upon certain import specialists. By increasing the number of items to be released on an accelerated basis, and via the entry form, management compelled the specialist to reprogram the computer. New criteria was required for the system, and this impacted upon the work performed by the particular employees. As such, the releasing of cargo under the Accept Program in the new fashion did involve and concern the working conditions of the import specialist. Announcement by Respondent in this regard was not merely informative re an established procedure. It was an admitted change in operation, which I conclude would necessarily constitute a "formal" discussion of a working condition. Accordingly, management should have provided the Union herein with an opportunity to be present during a discussion of the Accept Program at the meeting on July 9. Its failure to do so is violative of Sections 7116(a)(1) and (8) of the Act. Further, I conclude that in meeting with the specialist on the said date and announcing the change in this program, without notifying the Union, Respondent bypassed the bargaining representative. /12/ By so doing, the Respondent has run afoul of Section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Act. (e) APP-1 Importers Premises General Counsel contends that the announcement re AAP-1 visits touched directly on terms and conditions of employment. It engendered, according to this contention, questions re the use of personal vehicle and altered the degree of contact had by the specialist with the public. Under the AAP-1 program visits were required to be made to the importers' premises when the merchandise was extremely valuable or could not be transported to the Customhouse. Such visits by the specialist were, under the rule, to be made once a month. At the meeting in July 9 the supervisors reminded the employees to make these visits, especially since the new value law had been passed. No change was made by this announcement. Management was requesting that the employees adhere to the rule which had been in existence. I do not deem this reminder by the employer to be a formal discussion re working conditions under Section 7114(a)(2)(A). The fact that, as urged by General Counsel, questions were raised by employer as to reimbursement if they used private vehicles does not transform the meeting into a formal discussion. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, et al. supra. Therefore, I conclude the Respondent has not violated the Act by not affording the Union an opportunity to be present during the discussion of the APP-1 subject. (f) Mailing of Samples While the new procedure for handling the return of sample merchandise accepted by the specialists may not have involved a startling innovation, it does provide for a change in the duties of these employees. Thus, each individual is no longer concerned with the responsibility for handling the samples and returning some to the brokers. The change in the procedures, whereby one import specialist will handle this duty for all specialists, must result necessarily in an impact upon the time utilized, as well as the tasks performed, by these employees. It seems apparent that functions of the workers fall within the term "general working conditions". See Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Midwest Region, Chicago, Illinois, A/SLMR No. 1112. The meeting on July 9, insofar as it was concerned with the new procedure re the handling of sample merchandise by the import specialists, was a formal discussion under the Act. I conclude that Respondent's failure to offer the Union an opportunity to be present during such discussion was violative of Section 7116(a)(1) and (8); that by dealing with the specialists in this regard without notifying their bargaining representative constituted a bypassing of the Union in contravention of Sections 7116(a)(1) and (5) thereof. B. Late July meeting with employees It is maintained by the General Counsel that the Transaction Value Committee meeting in the latter part of July was a formal one because matters affecting terms and conditions of employment were discussed. It has been concluded herein that the announcement of the formation of this Committee did not require the presence of the Union herein. This conclusion was bottomed on the fact that management, in the course of soliciting questions re the new Value Law, was not actually discussing working conditions and thus no obligation existed to afford the bargaining agent an opportunity to be present. The meeting of the Committee with management, occasioned by Vitow, was an extension of the Committee's formation. It dealt with questions raised by Vitow and others as to the applicability of the new law-- the issue of freight changes thereunder. In my opinion the discussion re the Value Law with the Committee did not transfer the meeting into one involving working conditions. It does not appear that management sought to introduce changes in the duties of employees. Neither does the record reflect that, at this point, it had embarked upon a consideration of any new procedures for handling this merchandise. The meeting was confined to questions as to the application of the new law, and I do not conclude that it had reached the 'formal discussion' stage. Accordingly, I find that Respondent did not contravene the Act by meeting with the Committee in late July re the new Value Law. Having concluded that Respondent violated Sections 7116(a)(1), (5) and (8) of the Act, it is recommended that the Authority issue the following order: ORDER Pursuant to Section 2423.29 of the Federal Labor Relations Authority's Rules and Regulations and Section 7118 of the Statute, the Authority hereby orders that the Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs Service, Region IV, Miami, Florida shall: 1. Cease and desist from: (a) Conducting formal discussions between management and unit employees, or their representatives, concerning personnel policies and practices, or other matters affecting general working conditions of employees in the unit, without notifying and affording National Treasury Employees Union, the exclusive representative of its employees, or any other exclusive representative of its employees, the opportunity to be represented at such discussions. (b) Interfering with, restraining, or coercing the employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the Order by failing to notify and afford National Treasury Employees Union, or any other exclusive representative of its employees, the opportunity to be represented at formal discussions between management and employees, or other matters affecting general working conditions of employees in the unit. (c) In any like or related manner, interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees in the exercise of rights assured by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. 2. Take the following affirmative action in order to effectuate the purposes and policies of the Statute: (a) Notify the National Treasury Employees Union, of and afford it the opportunity to be represented at formal discussions between management and unit employees, as their representatives, concerning personnel policies and practices, or other matters affecting the general working conditions of employees in the unit. (b) Post at its facilities at the U.S. Customs Service, Miami, Florida copies of the attached notice marked "Appendix" on forms to be furnished by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Upon receipt of such forms, they shall be signed by the Regional Commissioner, U.S. Customs Service, Miami, Florida, and shall be posted and maintained by him for 60 consecutive days thereafter in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted. The Regional Commissioner shall take reasonable steps to insure that such notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material. (c) Notify the Federal Labor Relations Authority, in writing, within 30 days from the date of this order what steps have been taken to comply herewith. WILLIAM NAIMARK Administrative Law Judge Dated: June 5, 1981 Washington, D.C. APPENDIX NOTICE TO ALL EMPLOYEES PURSUANT TO A DECISION AND ORDER OF THE FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY AND IN ORDER TO EFFECTUATE THE POLICIES OF CHAPTER 71 OF TITLE 5 OF THE UNITED STATES CODE FEDERAL SERVICE LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS WE HEREBY NOTIFY OUR EMPLOYEES THAT: WE WILL NOT conduct formal discussions between management and unit employees, or their representatives, concerning personnel policies and practices or other matters affecting general working conditions of employees in the unit, without notifying and affording the National Treasury Employees Union, the exclusive representative of our employees, or any other exclusive representative of our employees, the opportunity to be represented at such discussions. WE WILL NOT interfere with, restrain, or coerce unit employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the Order by failing to notify and afford the National Treasury Employees Union, or any other exclusive representative of our employees, the opportunity to be represented at formal discussions between management and employees, or employee representatives concerning personnel policies and practices, or other matters affecting general working conditions of employees in the unit. WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner interfere with, restrain, or coerce our employees in the exercise of their rights assured by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. WE WILL notify the National Treasury Employees Union, of and afford it the opportunity to be represented at, formal discussions between management and unit employees or their representatives, concerning personnel policies and practices, or other matters affecting general working conditions of employees in the unit. (Agency or Activity) Dated: . . . By: (Signature) This Notice must remain posted for 60 consecutive days from the date of posting, and must not be altered, defaced, or covered by any other material. If the employees have any questions concerning this Notice or compliance with any of its provisions, they may communicate directly with the Regional Director, Region IV, for the Federal Labor Relations Authority, whose address is: Suite 501, 1776 Peachtree Street, N.W., North Wing, Atlanta, Georgia 30309, and whose telephone number is: (404) 881-2324. --------------- FOOTNOTES$ --------------- /1/ At the hearing Respondent moved to dismiss the complaint based on the contentions that (a) the allegations therein are vague and unclear, merely stating that meetings were conducted by Respondent with unit employees; (b) it was denied due process since the Regional Director refused Respondent a request for a subpoena of the statements taken during the investigation of this case; (c) the Chief Administrative Law Judge wrongfully denied Respondent's request for interrogatories as to the witnesses and the statements taken during the investigation. The motion was denied by the undersigned. While the complaint might have been pleaded with better specificity, paragraphs 9, 10, and 11 do apprise Respondent of the facts which are alleged to be violative of the Act, and I am satisfied the complaint is sufficient. In view of Section 2423.7(d) of the Rules and Regulations, I do not agree with Respondent's view that it has been denied due process by not obtaining the investigating data obtained by the regional office. Neither do I conclude the ends of justice would be denied by ordering interrogatories re such information under 2423.19(e) thereof. /2/ These particular duties are performed by certain import specialists in addition to their regular tasks. /3/ Unless otherwise indicated, all dates hereinafter mentioned occur in 1980. /4/ The staff meetings in this Classification and Value Division were discontinued in August. /5/ Record facts reveal that unit employee Sherri Hurt, who was shop steward, attended the meeting. However, the parties stipulated at the hearing that Frank Carelli, as president of the local union, would have been the proper person to contact re formal meetings; that he was not informed of the July 9 meetings in the Classification and Value Division; nor was he notified of the meeting later that month of the Transaction Value Committee. /6/ This report is statistical in nature. Each team member is required to fill it out, and thereafter the figures are consolidated for submission to headquarters. /7/ Trade Agreement Act of 1979, P.L. 96-39 which set forth a new method in valuing merchandise to arrive at the duty to be paid by the importer. /8/ Other topics mentioned at the meeting included (a) supplies, (b) file room entries being lost or misplaced, (c) unauthorized use of no-change stamp, (d) distribution of Federal Registers, and (e) missing documents. Most of these matters arose due to complaint from the employees in attendance. /9/ Employees raised the question as to whether brokers and import specialists were adhering to the proper procedures for presenting missing documents to Customs, as set forth in an Information Bulletin. The decision to reissue the bulletin as a reminder does not, I conclude, transform this exchange into a "formal" discussion. /10/ Included within the 17 topics, and numbered as XI in the minutes, was a request by an employer that supervision of C&V inform Headquarters and Regional Operations of the Miami C&V opinion re new policy on valuation. Chwast's agreement to check this out does not, in my opinion, institute a formal discussion under the Act. /11/ In support of its position the General Counsel cite a decision of Administrative Law Judge Devaney, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Region VI, SSA, et al. Case No. 6-CA-315 (1981). The cited case is inapposite since it involves a change instituted by management as to reporting mileage while attending to official business. The employer instituted a new method of computing and reporting the distances travelled by employees. /12/ While the new procedure for the Accept Program may be deemed a unilateral change of working conditions, no such allegation appears in the complaint. Accordingly, I make no finding in this regard.