DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE OKLAHOMA RURAL DEVELOPMENT STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA and LOCAL 3354, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

OKLAHOMA RURAL DEVELOPMENT

STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA

and

 

LOCAL 3354, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

 

Case No. 00 FSIP 74

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 3354, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) 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 (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119 between it and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Oklahoma Rural Development(RD), Stillwater, Oklahoma (Employer).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which arose during negotiations on an "interim" agreement, the Panel determined that the dispute over Union travel and per diem expenses should be resolved through written submissions from the parties. After considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to provide loans, at reasonable rates and terms, to rural residents and communities unable to obtain credit from commercial resources. There are approximately 72 employees in the bargaining unit who work in loan processing, customer service, and clerical positions, at grades ranging from GS-3 through GS-11. The parties bargained over an "interim" agreement after the Union was certified as the exclusive representative of unit employees. The agreement addresses grievances, facilities, dues withholding, official time, and travel and per diem expenses. According to previously agreed upon wording, if a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement has not been completed by December 31, 2000, either party may reopen the "interim" agreement.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties disagree over the amount of money the Employer should pay toward the travel and per diem expenses of Union representatives under the "interim" agreement.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1.  The Employer’s Position

     The Employer proposes the following wording:

1) Both parties will contribute to the reasonable costs of Union travel and per diem for representational purposes. Whenever possible and most economical, such travel within Oklahoma shall be by GSA vehicle, or by privately owned vehicle (POV) when no GSA car is available. For its share, the State Office will contribute up to $6,000 for fiscal year 2000. This will cover reasonable travel in connection with proceedings of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (Authority) and the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel). It will also include: costs associated with preparation for and participation in bargaining on a full term contract; costs associated with joint training Partnership and Alternative Dispute Resolution; costs for use of GSA vehicles and mileage for use of privately owned vehicles when GSA cars are unavailable. Within the FY 2000 limit specified above, the State Office will also pay for hotel expenses when a grievance or disciplinary meeting cannot be completed in one day.

For its share, the Union shall pay for the meals and incidental expenses of stewards who travel outside the geographic area of responsibility assigned by the Union to represent employees in grievances and similar matters, e.g., disciplinary replies. The Union will pay all travel associated with Union sponsored training, lobbying activities outside the State of Oklahoma, and any Union decision to voluntarily take on a representational role in third party proceedings other than those before the Authority or the Panel.

2) For future fiscal years, the State Office will request funding from the National Office of an amount equal to that received for FY 2000. If the National Office doesn’t provide the amount requested, the State Office will give the same consideration to Union travel needs as to other travel requirements within the funds actually received, whether by continuing resolution or by full fiscal allotment.

The proposal recognizes that RD travel funds for administering mission-related programs are tight due to the decrease in staffing levels (cuts of 28 percent) while the number of programs administered continues to rise (increases of 69 percent). For future years, by not specifying an amount, the Director of the Oklahoma RD could more easily adjust travel spending levels to make them consistent with overall travel appropriations. Additionally, to keep costs to a minimum, the practice of another union representing employees in the New York RD of using General Services Administration (GSA) cars, and personally-owned vehicle (POV) mileage reimbursement when GSA cars are not available for representational travel, is reflected in the proposal. All things considered, it is important for the Union to "accept fiscal responsibility for those actions which it initiates," such as playing a voluntary role in third-party actions and participation in administrative proceedings other than those before the Panel and the Authority. This is especially true where, as here, the Director of Oklahoma RD "is an allottee under the Anti-Deficiency Act" who is "held accountable for any expenditures over and above the fixed funds received from the national office."

2.  The Union’s Position

The Union proposes the following wording:

The Union will pay travel and per diem expens