U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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The decision of the Authority follows:

29 FLRA NO. 46






Case No. 0-AR-1322


I. Statement of the Case

This matter is before the Authority on exceptions to the award of Arbitrator Ira F. Jaffee filed by the Agency under section 7122 of the Federal Service Labor - Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations.

II. Background and Arbitrator's Award

The grievance in this case concerned four changes in the operation and staffing of Press 601, a gravure press used by the Agency to print postage stamps. These changes were: (1) scheduling continuous production on Press 601, including during lunch periods; (2) severing the two 15-minute paid rest periods from the 30-minute paid lunch period; (3) scheduling the press operators for break and lunch periods on an individual basis, thus allowing only one operator at a time to be on a break or at lunch; and (4) operating Press 601 with fewer than the usual three printers during break and lunch periods. These changes resulted in Press 601 being staffed by fewer than three printers for up to 3 hours per shift. The grievance alleged that these changes violated the parties' collective bargaining agreement, specifically, Article VI, Past Practices and Article XXIII, Health and Safety. 

The Arbitrator determined in regard to the first three changes that the record did not support a finding that the previous policies constituted past practices and, therefore, the Agency did not violate Article VI of the parties' agreement by implementing the changes. Arbitrator's Award at 40-44. The Arbitrator determined as to the fourth change that a long established and mutually accepted past practice to staff Press 601 with a three-printer crew had developed at the Agency. He concluded that the Agency's decision to operate Press 601 during break and lunch periods with fewer than three printers violated Article VI of the parties' agreement. Arbitrator's Award at 44.

The Arbitrator rejected the Agency's contention that, notwithstanding any binding past practice or understanding concerning staffing levels on Press 601, section 7106 of the Statute allowed it to unilaterally abrogate its agreement to maintain those levels. He noted that section 7106(b) of the Statute provides that nothing bars agencies, at their election, from bargaining on the numbers, types, and grades of employees assigned to a work project or on the technology, methods, and means of performing work. He reasoned that Article VI of the parties' agreement represented the Agency's election to bargain over and its agreement to continue, among other things, the pre-existing levels of staffing on Press 601. Arbitrator's Award at 44-45. The Arbitrator specifically stated that "enforcement of this practice does not compel the Bureau to add other plate printers or to operate Press 601 or any other press at a particular time; rather, the enforcement of the past practice simply requires that when the Bureau elects to operate a press, that it do so in accordance with the mutually agreed upon and understood manning schedule for that press in accordance with Article VI." Arbitrator's Award at 45.

Lastly, the Arbitrator found that it was clear that there was no violation of Article XXIII, the health and safety provision, of the parties' agreement. Accordingly, the Arbitrator denied the grievance in part and sustained it in part.

III. Discussion

In its exceptions the Agency contends that the award is contrary to sections 7106(a) and 7106(b)(1) of the Statute. Essentially, the Agency argues that by directing that Press 601 be staffed by three printers in accordance with the past practices provision of the parties' agreement, the award interferes with management's rights to assign employees and assign work.

We conclude that the Agency has failed to establish that the Arbitrator's award is deficient on any of the grounds set forth in section 7122(a) of the Statute; that is, that the award is contrary to any law, rule, or regulation or is deficient on other grounds similar to those applied by the Federal courts in private sector labor-management relations. See Local 1917, American Federation of Government Employees and United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, Eastern Region, 13 FLRA 77 (1983) (an award is not contrary to section 7106(b)(1) of the Statute if, consistent with the terms of that provision, the agency elected to bargain on the matter and agreed to that provision as part of its collective bargaining agreement); Council of District Office Locals, American Federation of Government Employees, San Francisco Region, AFL - CIO and Office of Program Operations, Field Operations, Social Security Administration, San Francisco Region, 5 FLRA 759, 762 (1981) (it is well-established that "the practices of the industry and the shop--(are) equally a part of the collective bargaining agreement although not expressed in it," quoting Steelworkers v. Warrior and Gulf Navigation Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582 (1960)); Federal Correctional Institution, Petersburg, Virginia and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2052, Petersburg, Virginia, 13 FLRA 108 (1983) (exceptions which constitute nothing more than disagreement with an arbitrator's findings of fact and reasoning and conclusions based on the evidence and testimony presented and with the arbitrator's interpretation and application of the parties' agreement provide no basis for finding an award deficient). In our view, the award does not conflict with management's rights to assign work or employees. Rather, the award merely enforces  the parties' agreement as to the issue concerning the number of employees (who have already been assigned to the positions and work) to operate Press 601.

Accordingly, the Agency's exceptions are denied. 1

Issued, Washington, D.C.,September 30, 1987.

Jerry L. Calhoun, Chairman

Henry B. Frazier III, Member

Jean McKee, Member




Footnote 1 The Agency also requested a stay of the award when it filed its exceptions with the Authority on March 6, 1987. However, effective December 31, 1986, the Authority's Regulations were revised to revoke those portions pertaining to the filing of requests for stays of arbitration awards (51 Fed. Reg. 45754). Accordingly, no action on the stay request was taken.