DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS, XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS AND FORT BRAGG 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

HEADQUARTERS, XVIII AIRBORNE

CORPS AND FORT BRAGG

FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA

and 

LOCAL 1770, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 90 FSIP 117

DECISION AND ORDER

The Department of the Army, Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Employer), 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 Local 1770, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union).

After the investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to meet informally with Staff Associate Gladys M. Hernandez for the purpose of resolving the issue at impasse. The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, Ms. Hernandez would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties' final offers, and her recommendations for resolving the issue. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

The parties met with Ms. Hernandez on September 18, 1990, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but they were unable to reach a settlement. Ms. Hernandez has reported to the Panel based on the record developed by the parties. The Panel has considered the entire record in the case.

BACKGROUND

The mission of the Employer is to provide medical and logistical support to the approximately 40,000 Army troops stationed at Fort Bragg. The Union represents 2 bargaining units, the first consisting of 100 nurses, and the second of approximately 3,700 General Schedule and Wage Grade employees in various administrative, technical, clerical, and trades and crafts occupations. The dispute affects approximately 800 employees who work in the Employer's medical and dental facilities.(1) The parties' multi-unit collective-bargaining agreement expires on April 2, 1992.

The dispute arose during bargaining over an installation-wide smoking policy. The parties have agreed upon a smoking policy for all installation facilities, except for the medical and dental facilities. The current smoking policies for the medical and dental facilities, implemented by their respective commanders, prohibit indoor smoking. Until this dispute is resolved, the smoking ban applies only to military personnel, civilian supervisors, volunteers, visitors, and patients (except when they have written orders from their attending physicians permitting them to smoke). Bargaining-unit employees are permitted to smoke in designated indoor smoking areas established prior to the ban, pending resolution of the dispute.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

The sole issue at impasse concerns the smoking policy for all medical and dental facilities at Fort Bragg.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer's Position

The Employer proposes to prohibit smoking by bargaining-unit employees in all facilities of the U.S.A. Medical Department Activity (USAMEDDAC) and the U.S.A. Dental Activity (USADENTAC), except "at covered outdoor areas attached to existing facilities which [would] be selected by the Employer and designated as smoking areas."(2) Employees are allowed two 15-minute breaks each workday which could be used to smoke, albeit in designated "covered outdoor [smoking] areas." Its proposal is essential to and consistent with the mission of USAMEDDAC and USADENTAC, namely, "promoting and assuring the highest level of health care attainable," a factor which the Panel has considered in resolving similar disputes at medical facilities.(3) The trend at private hospitals in nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city in a tobacco-producing State, is toward prohibiting smoking indoors. A total ban on indoor smoking would eliminate exposure by nonsmokers to second-hand tobacco smoke, which the Surgeon General of the United States has concluded is a health hazard.(4) The ventilation systems of the USAMEDDAC and USADENTAC facilities are inadequate for removing tobacco smoke from the indoor environment and, therefore, unable to eliminate the health hazards associated with passive smoke. Even in areas which undergo the number of air exchanges required under applicable ventilation standards, the air is simply recirculated -- there is no ventilation to the outside, and the mere installation of exhaust fans would not eliminate the risk factors. A major overhaul of the hospital's ventilation system would not be practical or cost-effective since construction of a new hospital is scheduled to begin in 1992. Moreover, a smoking policy which would permit some employees but not others to smoke would "cause[] animosity between employee groups, adversely affect[] morale, and make[] acceptance of the policy generally difficult."

2. The Union's Position

Under the Union's proposal, smoking would be prohibited only in those USAMEDDAC and USADENTAC facilities "where attached smoking areas that protect smokers from extreme heat (above 90 degrees), and extreme cold (below 40 degrees), rain, sleet, snow, et cetera], have been provided."

The Union contends, basically, that the Employer makes no legitimate argument for treating the medical and dental facilities different from other Fort Bragg facilities where the parties have agreed to designate indoor smoking areas provided "second-hand smoke from tobacco products can be sufficiently isolated to protect nonsmokers from its effect. Such determination will be made by the Preventive Medicine Activity using adequate ventilation/circulation criteria." Furthermore, the Federal Labor Relations Authority has determined that health concerns do not support a total ban on smoking.(5) The Union argues, without support, that the Surgeon General's Report is not scientifically correct. Addiction to tobacco is a handicapping condition which requires the Employer to accommodate the smokers.

Furthermore, a 1988 ventilation survey of selected restrooms and conference/break rooms in the dental clinics conducted by the Employer reveals that some restrooms in these facilities have sufficient ventilation to eliminate passive smoke from the