U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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United States of America




In the Matter of






Case No. 03 FSIP 132



   The Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institution, Tucson, Arizona (the Employer) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (the Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and Local 3955, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (the Union).

   Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns the Employer’s proposal to change the procedure for assigning inmate system officers (ISOs) to work various posts within the Inmate Systems Management Department (ISMD), the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through single written submissions from the parties. The parties were advised that following the receipt of their submissions, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the matter, which may include the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.


   The Employer’s mission is to protect society by confining criminal offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, and appropriately secure. The Union represents approximately 191 employees, who typically work as correctional officers (COs), ISOs, case managers, case counselors, physician assistants, accountants, plumbers, food service workers, and in various support staff positions, at GS-5 through -9 and WG-5 through -9. The proposed changes to the post rotation system would affect five ISOs who work in ISMD. Among other things, the ISMD is responsible for providing the Institution with interpretations of laws, policies and procedures as they apply to, for example, inmate movement, sentence computation, and time off for good behavior. The master collective bargaining agreement (MCBA) covering these employees expired March 8, 2001; its terms will remain in effect until negotiations over a successor agreement are completed.


   The parties disagree over whether to change the procedure affecting the extent to which ISOs rotate through various posts within ISMD.


1. The Employer’s Position

   The Employer proposes a rotational schedule, with employees selecting the order of rotation through the various posts within ISMD by seniority. Under this procedure, the ISO with the greatest seniority would make the initial choice for the first of five quarterly rotations. After the most senior employee makes his or her selection, he or she would not be able to select the same post again until all ISOs have had an opportunity to work the particular post.(1)

   Unlike the Correctional Services Department (CSD), where there is a large pool of employees to cover posts, ISMD is a small department where only five employees perform its functions. The proposal is preferable to the status quo because the rotation would expose junior employees to all aspects of ISOs’ duties; therefore, each ISO would become "knowledgeable and experienced in all of the functions of their positions." In this regard, the audit of previous post assignments indicates that for the past 25 quarters, two junior ISOs have not had the opportunity to work all of the posts. Failure to expose junior employees to all post assignments may be "detrimental to [the] development of individual staff, and to the ISM department." Moreover, in the event of an emergency, "it is important that these five staff members can work the various posts interchangeably." In an informal survey, 75 percent of the ISMDs questioned at other medium security prisons indicated they use a rotational system for filling posts. The Union’s argument that it would be negotiating away bargaining-unit employees’ rights is specious since it agreed to similar rotational systems in two other small departments within the Institution. Finally, unlike the current system which has led to a "decrease in staff morale and dissension," rotating post duties among all employees would increase the morale of junior employees since they would not have to work a substantial share of the evening and weekend posts.

2. The Union’s Position

   The Union proposes to maintain the status quo, i.e., the selection of posts in ISMD would continue to be based on a strict seniority procedure. There is no need to change the procedure for selecting posts, as the Employer suggests, because it has been in place since at least 1987 with no known complaints. ISO duties are no different than those performed by COs in the CSD; therefore, the seniority procedures outlined in Article 18, § d(2) of the MCBA should be applied to ISOs as well. This view is supported by a recent e-mail message from the Warden to Union leaders, ISOs, and other management officials, where she responded to a suggestion regarding a detail for training an ISO or assigning an Alternate ISO.(2) In this connection, the Employer’s concern that ISOs be able to perform the functions of every post within ISMD can be satisfied by assigning ISOs to cover for employees on leave. Finally, the Union’s position should be adopted because it is in concert with employees’ expressed wishes to "retain the full benefits of the Master Agreement as negotiated at the national level."


   Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties on this issue, we are persuaded that the Union’s proposal provides the better basis for resolving the dispute. As a general principle, in situations where only one party proposes to change the status quo, it has the initial burden of demonstrating the need for the change. This principle is particularly applicable in the current circumstances because the existing seniority selection procedure appears to have been in place since at least 1987. Based on the record, we conclude that the Employer has not met its burden in this regard. For example, there is no evidence of the decrease in staff morale and dissension it alleges, or that the practice has otherwise had an adverse impact on the accomplishment of the Institution’s mission. Its position is also undermined by the Warden’s email message regarding the interchangeability of the duties performed by COs and ISOs. Accordingly, we shall order the parties to adopt the Union’s proposal.


   Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel, under 5 C.F.R. § 2471.11(a) of its regulations, hereby orders the following:

   The parties shall adopt the Union’s proposal.

By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky
Executive Director

January 8, 2004
Washington, D.C.

1. Posts in ISDM consists of: (1) the mail room (Tuesday through Friday - 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday - 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.); (2) court movement (Monday through Friday - 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.); (3) a combination evening and weekend shift (Monday through Thursday - 2 p.m. to 10 a.m. and Sunday - 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.); (4) the weekend shift (Sunday - 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday and Tuesday - 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday - 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday - 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.); and (5) sick and annual leave coverage (no permanent schedule).

2. In her response, the Warden stated:

In reply to your suggestion regarding a detail for training for ISO duties or assigning an Alternate ISO, I decided it was not warranted. The basis for my decision is that ISO positions are in the same series as Correctional Officers, therefore, it would be reasonable to believe that a Correctional Officer on loan would readily learn the work.