DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY INSTALLATION MANAGEMENT AGENCY INSTALLATION ADJUTANT GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, FORT BRAGG GARRISON COMMAND (AIRBORNE) FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA and LOCAL 1770, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
LOCAL 1770, AMERICAN FEDERATION
Case No. 06 FSIP 79
DECISION AND ORDER
The Department of the Army (DA), Installation Management Agency (IMA), Installation Adjutant General, Headquarters, Fort Bragg Garrison Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Employer or IAG), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) under the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act of 1982 (Act), 5 U.S.C. § 6120 et seq., to resolve an impasse arising from its decision to terminate the 5/4-9 compressed work schedules (CWS) of four bargaining unit employees in the IAG Office represented by Local 1770, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), AFL-CIO (Union).
After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through an informal conference by telephone with Panel Member Richard B. Ainsworth. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached during the informal conference, Member Ainsworth would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final positions and his recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering this information, the Panel would take final action in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 6131 and 5 C.F.R. § 2472.11 of its regulations.
Pursuant to the procedural determination, Member Ainsworth conducted an informal conference by telephone with the parties on July 12, 2006. While the possibility of a settlement was explored, a settlement was not reached. The Panel has now considered the entire record, including the parties’ pre- and post-conference submissions, and Member Ainsworth’s recommendation for resolving the dispute.
The mission of the IMA, which was created on October 1, 2002, is to manage Army installations to support readiness and mission execution by providing equitable services and facilities, optimizing resources, sustaining the environment and enhancing the well-being of the military community. The IAG Office has been designated by the IMA to provide personnel support to approximately 53,000 soldiers at Fort Bragg. The Union represents about 3,500 professional and non-professional (General Schedule and Federal Wage System) employees who work at the Headquarters, Fort Bragg Garrison Command, and 13 other tenant commands at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 4 CWS employees represented by the Union in this case are among 66 DA civilian employees in the IAG Office. They are assigned to the Installation Reassignments Branch, and are the only employees responsible for processing officer orders.1/ The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was recently renegotiated and is now due to expire on April 27, 2011.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
In accordance with section 6131(c)(3)(C) of the Act, the issue in dispute is whether the finding on which the Employer bases its determination to terminate the 5/4-9 CWS in IAG Office is supported by evidence that the schedule has caused an adverse agency impact.2/
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Employer’s Position
The 5/4-9 CWS should be terminated "to eliminate reduction of productivity" and "ensure that [the IAG Office’s] customer service standards are maintained." By way of background, the IAG Office’s workload has increased significantly because of the Global War on Terrorism, with a very unfavorable ratio of civilian employees to soldiers. Given the intensity of the workload, it is imperative that the IAG Office be fully staffed during prime customer service hours, 0800 to 1700, so that the processing of soldier orders is performed as efficiently as possible. In this regard, orders are required "to break leases, acquire transportation appointments to ship household goods, purchase airline tickets, complete school registration," etc. When orders are delayed, "all these activities are delayed, resulting in significant costs, both monetary and in terms of time and effort to the soldier involved and his or her family members."
The impact of the CWS on customer service "should be measured in terms of the total hours during the pay period being rendered non-customer service." This is particularly important in the case of officer orders because they normally must be processed within 30 days. In this regard, the regular day off (RDO) per pay period for each of the employees on CWS amounts to 208 fewer hours annually when he or she is available to provide customer service. Each employee also works another 117 hours annually outside the established customer service hours. The termination of the CWS, therefore, would permit the Employer to align the work schedules of these employees with the established customer service hours, and enable the IAG Office to provide "the best customer service possible."
Data the Employer has collected indicate that approximately 204 orders were amended in the month of June 2006, although "it is not possible to track how many orders were amended as a result of [CWS employees’ RDO] since there are many factors that impact the final order being published." Sign-in logs for May 2006 establish that the two CWS employees who process officer orders had a total of 46 personnel who signed in on their RDOs but "could not be assisted fully because [the employees] were not present." Contrary to the Union’s contentions, they also indicate that a significant number of soldiers are serviced prior to 0900. Similarly, logs for June and July 2006 show that, because of her RDO, "several officers signed in but could not be seen" by the CWS employee who processes student officer orders, while others "have to try and find the time somewhere else in their demanding schedule to come back, if possible." In essence, "productivity is cut 10 percent simply by the individual[s] not being present 1 day out of 10 working days during the pay period." In conclusion, "terminating and placing each of these employees on an 8-hour day schedule of 0800 to 1700 with an hour lunch will allow 100 percent of the time worked to support the schedule of [the IAG Office’s] customers."
2. The Union’s Position
The Panel should find that the Employer has not met its burden under the Act of demonstrating that the 5/4-9 CWS in the IAG Office has caused an adverse agency impact either by reducing productivity or diminishing customer service. In this regard, the allegation that productivity has been reduced by 10 percent "is not accurate." One of the employees on CWS, the orders team leader, has no face-to-face contact with customers, so the Union questions why he is even included in the Employer’s attempt to terminate CWS. As to the three others, customers are "usually unavailable until 0900 due to requirements of performing physical training" within their units. Thus, the employees use the time from 0730 to 0900 as "much needed administrative time" for processing orders. In addition, the employees are asked to staff the customer service desk "at least once per week." This does cause a decrease in their ability to assist their customer base. When they are approved to work overtime "to make up for this loss in productivity," however, the overtime is not scheduled during their RDOs to increase customer service hours, but rather "at the beginning and end of their tour of duty." This adds even more time "outside of the customer service hours," demonstrating the need for additional administrative time, and undercutting the Employer’s claim that customer service hours should be the "only indicator" of whether CWS is viable within IAG.
The sign-in logs the Employer has introduced fail to pin-point how the CWS "has had negative impact on any specific soldier or specific incidences in which customers were not allowed to change duty stations in a timely manner, receive household goods or any other specific harm was caused." Furthermore, the Employer’s attempt to show that student officers are not being serviced on the CWS employee’s RDO merely reveals that "customer service hours are not well advertised and that soldiers are not aware of the ability to schedule appointments." Such appointments provide "structure and predictability for clients and their work-sections" and would "return soldiers to duty in a more expeditious manner." Given that the Employer initiated the process of terminating the CWS in November 2005, but the only data it has provided to the Panel to support its allegations is drawn from the May – July 2006 time period, "the agency reached a determination to end [CWS] without relying on the necessary data to make this claim." Overall, the Employer’s allegations of adverse agency impact "have not been demonstrated by factual evidence."
Under section 6131(c)(2) of the Act, the Panel is required to take final action in favor of the agency head’s (or delegatee’s) determination to terminate a CWS if the finding on which the determination is based is supported by evidence that the schedule has caused an "adverse agency impact." As its legislative history makes clear, Panel determinations under the Act are concerned solely with whether an employer has met its statutory burden on the basis of "the totality of the evidence presented."3/
Having considered the totality of the evidence before us, we find that the Employer has not met its statutory burden. In our view, the record presented is insufficient to establish that the 5/4-9 CWS has reduced productivity or diminished the level of services furnished to soldiers, as the Employer alleges. Among other things, there is no specific evidence in the record directly linking delays in the processing of soldiers’ orders to the RDOs of CWS employees. While the sign-in logs submitted by the Employer purport to show that a number of soldiers could not meet with the employee specifically assigned to assist them in processing their orders due to an employee’s RDO, we are not persuaded that this rises to the level of an adverse agency impact. It appears that other employees can, and often do, provide assistance to the extent they are able, and that the processing of orders may require a number of visits to the IAG Office before final publication. More importantly, the data provided by the Employer are taken from a time period that post-dates its finding that the CWS has caused an adverse agency impact. For this reason, it is not in accordance with the basic framework established under the Act, and is unsuitable for the Panel’s consideration. Accordingly, based on the evidence presented, we shall order the Employer to rescind its determination to terminate the 5/4-9 CWS in the IAG Office.4/
Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act, 5 U.S.C. § 6131(c), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under § 2472.11(b) of its regulations hereby orders the Employer to rescind its determination to terminate the 5/4-9 CWS in the Fort Bragg Installation Adjutant General’s Office.
By direction of the Panel.
H. Joseph Schimansky
July 24, 2006
Specifically, one employee is the orders team leader, who signs soldiers' orders; two process officer orders; and the fourth processes student officer orders.
5 U.S.C. § 6131(b) defines adverse agency impact as: