[ v39 p702 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:
39 FLRA No. 58
FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY
PANAMA CANAL COMMISSION
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES
AND PILOTS, MARINE DIVISION, ILA, AFL-CIO
February 19, 1991
Before Chairman McKee and Members Talkin and Armendariz.
I. Statement of the Case
This matter is before the Authority on an exception to the award of Arbitrator Alexander Cocalis. The Arbitrator denied the grievance over the Agency's removal of the grievant from its pilot-in-training program.
The Union filed an exception to the award under section 7122(a) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and part 2425 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations. The Agency did not file an opposition to the Union's exception.
We conclude that the Union fails to establish that the award is deficient because it is contrary to an Agency rule or regulation. Accordingly, we will deny the Union's exception.
II. Background and Arbitrator's Award
The grievant was removed from the Agency's pilot-in-training program for employees piloting ships through the Panama Canal. The grievant was removed from the program after failing his first check ride(1) for the completion of phase II of the program. A grievance was filed over the removal and was submitted to arbitration.
According to the Arbitrator, the issue before him was whether the grievant was properly removed from the program. The Arbitrator determined that the standard to be applied in resolving this issue was whether there existed just cause for removing the grievant from the program. The Arbitrator noted that the parties had negotiated in their collective bargaining agreement a requirement that there be "just cause" for any adverse action.(2) In the Arbitrator's view, the action taken against the grievant constituted an adverse action.
In determining that the standard contained in the parties' agreement applied, the Arbitrator rejected the position of the Union that the applicable requirements were those established by the Agency's Chief, Maritime Training and set forth in a memorandum dated April 10, 1988. The Arbitrator noted that under the requirements promulgated on April 10, 1988, a pilot can be dropped from the program in only three instances: cheating, failing two examinations, or failing two check rides. The Arbitrator recognized that under these requirements, the grievant would clearly be entitled to a second check ride. However, the Arbitrator refused to apply these requirements because they "would render the 'good cause' requirement of the Agreement meaningless." Arbitrator's Award at 11.
Applying the standard of whether there was just cause for dropping the grievant from the program, the Arbitrator found that the Agency had just cause because the Agency had established that the grievant lacked the aptitude to pilot a ship on the Panama Canal. The Arbitrator also found, in response to the grievant's contentions, that there was no evidence of any disparate treatment. Accordingly, the Arbitrator denied the grievance.
III. The Union's Exception
The Union contends that the award is deficient because it is contrary to the written rules of the Agency. The Union maintains that under the Agency's memorandum of April 10, 1988, as a minimum requirement, a pilot is entitled to two check rides. The Union argues that the Agency improperly removed the grievant because the Agency failed to follow its own rules and regulations in removing the grievant without a second check ride. Therefore, the Union asserts that by sustaining the Agency's action, the award contravenes a specific Agency rule or regulation and must be reversed.
IV. Analysis and Conclusions
We conclude that the Union fails to establish that the award is deficient because it is contrary to an Agency rule or regulation. We find that the Arbitrator properly determined that the standard governing the resolution of this dispute was the standard of just cause contained in the parties' collective bargaining agreement.
In U.S. Department of the Army, Fort Campbell District, Third Region, Fort Campbell, Kentucky and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2022, 37 FLRA 186 (1990)(Fort Campbell), we held that an arbitration award must conflict with a regulation that governs the matter in dispute in order to be found deficient under section 7122(a)(1) of the Statute because it is contrary to a rule or regulation. With respect to agency rules or regulations, such as the rules in this case, however, we held that when there is a conflict between a provision of a collective bargaining agreement and an agency rule or regulation that both apply to a given matter, the collective bargaining agreement will govern the disposition of the matter in dispute. In other words, we ruled that provisions that become part of a collective bargaining agreement take precedence over agency rules and regulations with respect to matters to which they both apply.
In this case, the Arbitrator concluded that there was a conflict between the parties' agreement and the April 10 rules with respect to the applicable standards for removal from the pilot-in-training program. Accordingly, we find, consistent with our decision in Fort Campbell, that the Arbitrator properly determined that the agreement took precedence and governed the resolution of the dispute. Therefore, no basis is provided for finding the award deficient as contrary to an Agency rule or regulation within the meaning of section 7122(a)(1).
In so finding, we note that the Union has contended only that the April 10 rules were controlling and has not disputed the Arbitrator's interpretation and application of the parties' collective bargaining agreement. In particular, the Union has not disputed the Arbitrator's conclusion that the grievant's removal from the program constituted an adverse action under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement or the Arbitrator's application of the just cause provisions of the agreement to that action. Article 12 of the parties' agreement gives the term "adverse action" its technical, legal meaning as one of the disciplinary actions covered by 5 U.S.C. º 7512, but the Arbitrator used the term in the more general sense of an unfavorable action. Although the grievant's removal from the pilot-in-training program does not constitute an adverse action covered by 5 U.S.C. º 7512, the definition of "just cause" in Article 11 of the agreement does not limit the application of just cause to adverse actions under 5 U.S.C. º 7512. Consequently, it is not apparent to us that the Arbitrator's interpretation and application of the collective bargaining agreement was irrational, unfounded, or implausible so as to fail to draw its essence from the agreement. See, for example, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Boston, Massachusetts and American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3258, 38 FLRA No. 124, slip op. at 8 (1991).
Accordingly, we will deny the Union's exception.
The Union's exception is denied.
(If blank, the decision does not have footnotes.)
1. A check ride is a trip during which the Agency evaluates all phases of the progress of an employee in the pilot-in-training program and is one of the factors by which the Agency determines whether the employee should be promoted. Arbitrator's Award at 3.
2. The Arbitrator cited and quoted the following provisions of the parties' agreement:
SECTION 2. Definitions. "Just cause" means that the evidence produced from the investigation of an incident supports the conclusion that the offense was committed by the charged pilot and that the disciplinary action taken is appropriate under all the circumstances.
SECTION 1. Definitions and policy (a) Adverse action is defined as:
(3) Reduction in grade or pay, . . . (b) Adverse action is intended to promote the best interests of the Commission by enforcement of reasonable standards of efficiency and good conduct. It will be taken against a pilot only for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service. Such action shall be consistent with the "just-cause" standard defined in Article 11 of this Agreement and shall be effected in conformity with the procedural requirements of this Article.