DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS MEDICAL CENTER NEWINGTON, CONNECTICUT and LOCAL R1-109, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
United States of America
BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL
In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
LOCAL R1-109, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
Case No. 90 FSIP 56
DECISION AND ORDER
Local R1-109. National Association of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under section 7119 of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute) between it and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Newington, Connecticut (Employer).
After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed that the dispute be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties. After considering the entire record, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to these procedures and the Panel has now considered the entire record
The Employer is a hospital which provides general medical, psychiatric, and ambulatory care to eligible veterans. The Union represents 300 employees who are part of a nationwide consolidated bargaining unit, and work as housekeepers, cooks, supply workers, carpenters, engineers, nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, and dental and laboratory technicians. The parties' master agreement will expire in October 1990.
The current negotiations arose from the settlement of a Union-filed unfair labor practice charge which specified in part that the parties would bargain over official time for the Union president, vice president, and secretary. Previously, the Union president was permitted reasonable time for representational activities, and he balanced these activities with his assigned duties. He is currently the only dental technician responsible for making prosthetic devices at the facility.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The issue is the amount of official time to be granted to the Union president, vice president, and secretary for representational purposes.
1. The Employer's Position
The Employer maintains that the size of the bargaining unit, the central location of the Union's office, and the potential for utilizing stewards, make 40 percent official time for the Union president, and 5 percent each for the vice president and the secretary an adequate amount. According to the Employer, there has been no change in the Union's workload to justify 100 percent official time as proposed by the Union. Furthermore, in addition to the time that would be available through better use of the steward system, it has access to outside counsel for arbitrations as well as Merit Systems Protection Board and Federal Labor Relations Authority proceedings. Although the Union asserts that staffing shortages in the dental laboratory should not be a factor in determining the appropriate amount of official time for the Union president, the Employer argues that the president's position is "very critical," and his use of official time has a negative impact on direct patient care.
2. The Union's Position
The Union argues that its proposal for 100 percent official time for the Union president, and 20 percent each for the vice president and the secretary, is justified by the high level of labor-relations activity at the hospital. It claims that whether the Union president himself or stewards perform representational functions is internal Union business. The Union president spends 6 to 8 hours per day on Union-related functions because the unit encompasses several disciplines and pay systems. Furthermore, the
increasing turnover rate, use of temporary employees, and the legalistic atmosphere make stewards difficult to recruit and retain. Currently, there are only three officials besides the president available to perform official Union business. Moreover, the Employer's arguments regarding the staffing shortage in the dental clinic is irrelevant. It cites American Federation of Government Employees v. Federal Labor Relations Authority, 798 F.2d 1525 (D.C. Cir. 1986) in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found a proposal for 100 percent official time negotiable, thereby overruling a previous FLRA decision that it was negotiable only at the election of the employer.*/ Although such a provision necessarily requires an agency to increase the number of employees or positions in certain of its work projects, the D.C. Circuit stated that "[a]ny provision ... in an efficiently run organization will require the agency to reassign work to other employees and, if present employees are already busy throughout the day, to hire additional employees to perform these reassigned duties." Id. at 1529.
Having considered the evidence and arguments in this case, we
conclude, on balance, that the issue should be resolved by adopting a modified version of the Employer's proposal which would provide 40 percent official time for the president, and expand to lO percent, respectively, the amounts for vice president and secretary. All amounts should be granted on a daily, noncumulative basis. In reaching this conclusion, we are persuaded that these amounts should prove adequate for conducting representational activities, considering the size of the bargaining unit and the Union's ability to distribute such functions among its officials. While the press of ongoing labor-relations activities may compete with time for recruiting and training stewards, the advantage to cultivating such resources should not be ignored. In addition, other provisions in the parties' local agreement provide official time for stewards, labor-management activities, and training which should increase the total amount of time available. Furthermore, use of a definite quantity of time should reduce some tensions attributable to the former system of "reasonable time." Experience under the new provision will ultimately test its adequacy and guide future negotiations on this subject. The availability of the Union president to perform his assigned duties was not S factor in our decision.