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U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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20:0125(14)CA - SSA and AFGE, Local 1923 -- 1985 FLRAdec CA

[ v20 p125 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

20 FLRA No. 14



Charging Party

                                      Case No. 3-CA-40552

                           DECISION AND ORDER

   This matter is before the Authority pursuant to the Regional
Director's "Order Transferring Case to the Federal Labor Relations
Authority" in accordance with section 2429.1(a) of the Authority's Rules
and Regulations.

   Upon consideration of the entire record, including the stipulation of
facts, accompanying exhibits, and the contentions of the parties, the
Authority finds:

   The complaint alleges that the Social Security Administration (the
Respondent) violated section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Federal Service
Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) /1/ by bypassing the
American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1923, AFL-CIO (AFGE),
the employees' exclusive representative, when, during March 1984, it
distributed to bargaining unit employees an "Integrity and Security
Awareness Feedback Questionnaire" (herein the questionnaire) as part of
an internal agency bulletin entitled "Integrity and Security Awareness
Bulletin." The complaint further alleged that such conduct constituted a
failure and refusal to negotiate the manner in which information would
be obtained from bargaining unit employees and the impact and
implementation of the Respondent's decision to gather the information.

   The parties stipulated that, during March 1984, the Respondent
distributed the questionnaire to all personnel assigned to the
Respondent's Office of Disability Operations (ODO) without prior notice
to AFGE.  The record shows that, in an August 1983 Integrity and
Security Awareness Bulletin, which contained exactly the same
questionnaire as is in question here, it was explained that the
Respondent's Integrity Staff, which is responsible for distributing both
questionnaires, "was established in October 1981 to detect fraud and
abuse in the disability program by beneficiaries and employees and to
provide the necessary security for the protection of personnel and the
system of records.  To accomplish this objective, the Integrity Staff
monitors the disability operation by conducting payment audits,
administrative audits, systems audits, program and facilities audits."
The expressed purpose of the internal agency bulletins was "to expand
the scope and dimension of these audit programs by alerting all ODO
personnel to security matters and the potential avenues of fraud and
abuse." The questionnaire itself stated that it was "being provided so
that ODO employees and managers may assist the Integrity Staff in
ensuring that integrity in the Social Security program is maintained,"
and requested employees to "identify procedures, systems and practices
that are vulnerable to fraud and abuse and list below." The
questionnaire, which did not request or require employees to identify
themselves, contained three questions, as follows:

         1.  Are there any areas of your operation which you think may
      be susceptible to fraudulent practices by either beneficiaries
      and/or employees?

         2.  Are there any abusive practices and/or procedures regarding
      overtime, time and leave or other related areas now taking place
      in your location?

         3.  Other comments:

   The parties further stipulated that any response to the questionnaire
was unknown.

   In Internal Revenue Service (District, Region, National Office
Units), 19 FLRA No. 48(1985), the Authority, in considering whether the
agency's conduct therein in distributing questionnaires to unit
employees constituted an unlawful bypass of the exclusive
representative, stated:

         (A)s part of its overall management responsibility to conduct
      operations in an effective and efficient manner, an agency may
      question employees directly provided that it does not do so in a
      way which amounts to attempting to negotiate directly with its
      employees concerning matters which are properly bargainable with
      its employees' exclusive representative.  In this regard, as the
      Authority has previously noted, management must have the latitude
      to gather information, including opinions, from unit employees to
      ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations.

   The Authority concluded that the agency's conduct therein did not
constitute an unlawful bypass of the exclusive representative because
the questionnaires were an information gathering mechanism, in
connection with the management function of studying its operations, and
because there was no indication that management attempted to deal or
negotiate directly with unit employees concerning their conditions of

   In the circumstances of this case, the Authority finds that the
"Integrity and Security Awareness Feedback Questionnaire" did not
constitute an unlawful bypass of the Union in violation of the Statute.
In our opinion, the questionnaire merely sought factual information in
order to effectively avoid and prevent fraud and abuse within the
Agency's ODO program.  Thus, the questionnaire clearly indicated that it
was "being provided so that ODO employees and managers may assist the
Integrity Staff in ensuring that integrity in the Social Security
program is maintained." It has not been shown that the Respondent
intended to or did use any information gained from the questionnaire in
any way which would undermine the status of the exclusive
representative.  Further, the record fails to show that the Respondent
by any other action sought to or did in fact attempt to negotiate
directly with unit employees concerning their conditions of employment.

   The Authority concludes that the General Counsel has failed to
establish an unlawful bypass in violation of section 7116(a)(1) and (5)
of the Statute.  The Authority further finds that the Respondent did not
violate section 7116(a)(1) and (5) of the Statute by failing and
refusing to negotiate the manner in which information would be obtained
from bargaining unit employees, or concerning procedures and appropriate
arrangements for unit employees who may be adversely affected by the
Respondent's decision to gather the information.  /2/ Accordingly, we
shall order that the complaint be dismissed.


   IT IS ORDERED that the complaint in Case No. 3-CA-40552 be, and it
hereby is, dismissed in its entirety.

   Issued, Washington, D.C., September 11, 1985

                                      (s) HENRY B. FRAZIER III
                                      Henry B. Frazier III, Acting
                                      (s) WILLIAM J. MCGINNIS JR.
                                      William J. McGinnis, Jr., Member
                                      FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY

--------------- FOOTNOTES$ ---------------

   /1/ Section 7116(a)(1) and (5) provides:

         Section 7116.  Unfair labor practices

         (a) For the purpose of this chapter, it shall be an unfair
      labor practice for an agency--

         (1) to interfere with, restrain, or coerce any employee in the
      exercise by the employee of any right under this chapter;

                                 * * * *

         (5) to refuse to consult or negotiate in good faith with a
      labor organization as required by this chapter(.)

   /2/ See Department of Defense, Office of Dependents Schools, 19 FLRA
No. 94(1985).