DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY BORDER AND TRANSPORTATION SECURITY DIRECTORATE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON, D.C. and NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BUREAU OF CUSTOMS AND BORDER
NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION
Case No. 05 FSIP 120
DECISION AND ORDER
The National Treasury Employees Union (the Union or NTEU) 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 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Border and Transportation Security Directorate, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (the Employer or CBP), Washington, D.C.
Following an investigation of the Union’s request for assistance concerning a dispute over the CBP’s uniform policy, the Panel determined that the impasse should be resolved through single written submissions.1/ The parties were informed that after considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate, which could include the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions supplementing their earlier statements in BCBP were made pursuant to this procedure and the Panel has now considered the entire record.
The Employer’s primary mission is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the U.S. The Employer is also responsible for, among other things, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband from entering the U.S. The Union represents a nationwide unit of approximately 11,000 employees who typically work as customs inspectors, entry specialists, canine enforcement officers, import specialists, and in various support staff positions, at grades GS-5 through -11. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering these parties expired on September 30, 1999; except for permissive subjects of bargaining, the CBA’s terms will remain in effect until a new agreement is negotiated.2/
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over where and under what circumstances employees should be permitted to wear uniform cargo shorts.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Union’s Position
The Union proposes that the Employer maintain the status quo by allowing "legacy" Customs Inspectors, Canine Enforcement Officers, and any other uniformed legacy Customs officer to be permitted to wear cargo shorts in all Class 3 environments.3/ "[R]etention of the status quo would enable employees to address the extreme heat and humidity that exists at most, if not all, ports-of-entry," whether it be North Dakota, Maryland or Southern Florida. Contrary to the Employer’s contention that cargo shorts do not project a professional image, "at least 49 law enforcement agencies have not found that professionalism is compromised"; and it provides "no evidence of on-the-job injuries related to shorts," or an "analysis comparing injuries where shorts are allowed and prohibited." Further, the current practice "would not, and has not, adversely impacted their ability to meet the [Employer’s] mission." The Employer’s proposal "is inherently disparate since it arbitrarily limits the shorts option for some Officers but not others"; hence, the Employer’s objective of a consistent policy on uniforms is simply not achieved. Moreover, permitting cargo shorts would not "disrupt the workforce and distract" employees from performing anti-terrorism work efforts, law enforcement, safety and other agency mission objectives. In summary, CBP has had seven years to collect, analyze and provide evidence to support its arguments that the agency’s mission would be impeded, but has "failed to do so."
2. The Employer’s Position
The Employer proposes that cargo shorts be an authorized trouser option in the Class 3 confined cargo environment only at the Southwest border locations, South Florida, and Puerto Rico. This is in accordance with the Employer’s efforts "to implement a consistent uniform policy for all inspectional personnel." It is also consistent with the policy that two other unions representing CBP employees agreed to in the fall of 2004,4/ and would assist the Employer in "maintaining its policy of presenting a more consistent, law enforcement image." Moreover, the proposal "gives consideration to and creates preventive measures for extreme circumstances that would require diversion from the policy." It safeguards employees from "increased potential injury/terminal disease/death by keeping their vulnerable body parts from exposure to scrapes, cuts, and sun damage." When given the option, the majority of employees would "prefer" to keep their legs covered due to the nature of their work. The Union’s proposal, on the other hand, should not be adopted because it "would hinder the [Employer’s] efforts to unify its workforce and integrate its functions." It would also preclude CBP from establishing a "clear and consistent" policy to ensure "uniformity and ease of identification of law enforcement personnel."