DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DEPENDENTS SCHOOLS MEDITERRANEAN REGION and OVERSEAS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFT, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

DEPENDENTS SCHOOLS

MEDITERRANEAN REGION

and

OVERSEAS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS,

AFT, AFL-CIO

Case No. 93 FSIP 22

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Overseas Federation of Teachers, AFT, AFL-CIO (Union), filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of Defense, Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS), Mediterranean Region (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel determined that the impasse concerning appropriate arrangements for employees involuntarily reassigned from their positions at the Lajes Air Force Base, Azores, Portugal,(1) should be resolved through written submissions from the parties, with the Panel to take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel now has considered the entire record.(2)

BACKGROUND

    The Employer provides quality education to the dependent children of Department of Defense civilian and military employees who are stationed in Spain, the Azores (Portugal), Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Bahrain. The Union represents a bargaining unit of approximately 800 employees who work in such professional positions as teacher, psychologist, nurse, and librarian, among others. Under its terms, the parties' collective-bargaining agreement has been automatically renewed on an annual basis since it expired in February 1987.

    The dispute arose during impact-and-implementation bargaining over the Employer's decision to comply with the terms of a treaty between Portugal and the U.S. requiring the reassignment of employees after 3 years of service there. This is a change from previous practice, whereby waivers of the 3-year rule were granted routinely by the Portuguese government upon request. According to the Employer, because waiver requests that were submitted during School Year (SY) 1991-92 were "ignored" by the Portuguese government, a decision has been made to discontinue requesting waivers to the treaty.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties basically disagree over the circumstances, if any, under which reassigned employees should be permitted to return to positions at Lajes.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union's Position

    The Union proposes the following wording:

Current employees shall be given priority to return to Lajes (the Lajes Air Base Schools) to fill positions for which they qualify as openings occur.

Its proposal was presented on behalf of the 25 teachers who had been at Lajes for more than 3 years and who were reassigned in SY 1991-92 as a result of management's decision to comply fully with the treaty and discontinue the practice of requesting waivers. A survey "identified eight teachers who wished to stay in Lajes." This "right of first refusal" would go into effect only when: (1) a vacancy occurs; (2) a decision is made to fill the vacancy; (3) a reassignment from outside of Lajes must be made to fill the position; and (4) "a fully qualified former Lajes teacher, who is performing satisfactorily is available and wishes to return to Lajes." As such, the proposal is a fully negotiable accommodation, under § 7106(b)(3) of the Statute, for employees adversely affected by the exercise of management's right to reassign employees. Adoption of the proposal also would substantially benefit the Employer. In this regard, "assigning teachers who wish to work in a remote part of the world is a substantial reward to the Agency," which should be "overjoyed that some of its employees wish to return to this harsh environment." It also would "increase morale, reduce costs, and improve the efficiency of the service."

2. The Employer's Position

    The Employer's decision to discontinue requests for waivers from the treaty's requirements was necessary "to ensure proper staffing." It contends that the Union's proposal is nonnegotiable because it directly and excessively "interferes with management's right to fill positions and select employees from any appropriate source" under § 7106(a)(2)(c) of the Statute. Moreover, in its discussions concerning the intent of the proposal, the Union indicated that, once employees are reassigned to Lajes, "they would be grandfathered against the treaty requirements," i.e., "they would not be subject to the treaty's requirements limiting service in Lajes." Therefore, the proposal "seeks to invalidate a treaty provision through the collective bargaining process."

    The Union's proposal also would result in additional costs "incurred in returning an employee to Lajes when management has a qualified local candidate available for selection." Further, it fails to consider that "all teaching jobs are overseas, and relocation to an overseas area is one of the most basic conditions of employment in DODDS." In this regard, rejection of the proposal would be consistent with a previous Panel decision in which it adopted a private factfinder's recommendation involving the Employer where the factfinder concluded that employees in