DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS VICKSBURG DISTRICT VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI and LOCAL 3310, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
|In the Matter of
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
Case No. 95 FSIP 73
LOCAL 3310, AMERICAN FEDERATION
OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO
ARBITRATOR’S OPINION AND DECISION
The Department of the Army, Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, Vicksburg, Mississippi (Employer or Agency) and Local 3310, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) filed a joint 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. After investigation of the request for assistance, the Panel directed the parties to mediation-arbitration by telephone with the undersigned. A telephone conference was held with the parties on July 18, 1995. At the outset, the undersigned engaged in mediation efforts to assist the parties in resolving the two ground rules issues at impasse. With mediation assistance, the parties resolved one of those issues (the schedule for ground rules and successor agreement negotiations). On July 24, 1995, the parties submitted written statements on the remaining issue, including their written final proposals and arguments in support thereof.
The Employer operates and maintains locks, dams, and flood control projects in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It also operates seven lake field projects which are used primarily for recreation. The Union represents a bargaining unit of approximately 665 General Schedule and Wage Grade employees who work in a variety of occupations such as maintenance worker, park ranger, power plant electrician, and civil engineering technician, among others; almost half of them are stationed in the Vicksburg area. The parties' 1980 collective-bargaining agreement remains in effect until a successor agreement is implemented.
The dispute, which arose during negotiations over ground rules for successor agreement negotiations, was submitted to the Panel pursuant to the terms of a settlement of an unfair labor practice charge which was facilitated by the Atlanta Regional Office of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Following resolution of this case, the parties will return to the table to conclude their negotiations over ground rules.
ISSUE AT IMPASSE
The parties disagree over who should pay the travel expenses and per diem allowances for Union negotiators during ground rules and successor negotiations.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
1. The Employer's Position
The Employer proposes to allow field employees serving as Union negotiators the use of Government-owned vehicles (GOV) for transportation from their duty stations to Vicksburg, including "necessary local transportation to and from temporary lodging and eating establishments" and return trips to their duty stations "on intervening weekends" during each 3-week session in contract negotiations. It will pay all expenses related to their use of GOVs, including "rental fees, fuel, and necessary maintenance." The Union, however, will be responsible for the lodging, food, and miscellaneous expenses of its representatives.
Under this proposal, the Employer will "absorb" an amount estimated at $43,246 for transportation and "to overcome cost of productive time" in addition to "official time salaries" for 3 specified Union representatives in both ground rules and contract negotiations. The Union, on the other hand, will expend only 1/6 of that amount, or $10,920. It is "reasonable" for the Union to bear such costs because it has "chosen" negotiators from "some of the most remote field locations," even though almost half of all employees in the bargaining unit are stationed in the Vicksburg area and are available for negotiations at no travel-related cost to either party. As a "partner," it is "incumbent upon the Union to either do as the Agency is doing (i.e., use negotiators located in Vicksburg)" or pay the cost of having field employees as Union negotiators.
With regard to the Union’s proposal, it will not "substantively" reduce costs because it will still require the Employer to release field employees for negotiations and pay their expenses while in Vicksburg. Also, it is "void of any real commitment" on the part of the Union to share the cost of bringing field employees to Vicksburg for negotiations.
2. The Union’s Position
In essence, the Union proposes that "except in rare or uncontrollable instances" (for example, illnesses or personal problems), it will make "every reasonable effort to use a maximum of two unit employees" stationed at remote work sites, e.g., Monroe and DeGray Lake field offices.(1) "As often as possible," one of these employees will be a specified individual from the Monroe Field Office provided the Employer allows him to use a GOV, pays his meal expenses "as determined by the Joint Travel Regulations (JTRs)," and keeps him on pay status "from his departure from his work place until he returns from negotiations in Vicksburg."(2) When the parties address issues "that directly involve conditions of employment unique to remote sites," the Union will limit its negotiators from remote sites to "a maximum of three," and "whenever possible" one of them will be the same individual refer