DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY FORT CARSON EVANS ARMY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL FORT CARSON, COLORADO AND LOCAL 1345, 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 CARSON

EVANS ARMY COMMUNITY HOSPITAL

FORT CARSON, COLORADO

AND

LOCAL 1345, AMERICAN FEDERATION

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO

Case No. 96 FSIP 53

DECISION AND ORDER

    Local 1345, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Employees Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules Act (Act), 5 U.S.C. § 6120, et seq., between it and the Department of the Army, Fort Carson, Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colorado (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance concerning a dispute over the termination of a 4/10 alternative work schedule (AWS) for the medical clerks in the Psychiatry Department, the Panel asserted jurisdiction over the dispute under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and determined that it should be resolved through written submissions from the parties.(1) Thereafter, the Panel would issue a Decision and Order to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Evans Army Community Hospital is responsible for providing medical support to combat troops, dependents, and retirees. The Union represents approximately 1,200 General Schedule (GS) bargaining-unit employees, 600 of whom are employed at the hospital. The bargaining-unit employees work as nurses, clerks, secretaries, and medical technologists. There are three medical clerks(2) employed by the Psychiatry Department, but only two are participating in the AWS program, which was implemented on April 12, 1995.(3) While negotiations for a successor collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) are in progress, the current agreement, which expired in 1988, remains in effect until its successor is executed.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

    The parties essentially disagree over whether the 4/10 AWS of two medical clerks in the Psychiatry Department should be terminated.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes that the current 4/10 work schedule be terminated. In its place, it proposes the following work schedules:

For Medical Clerks assigned to the Psychiatry Department, an AWS of 9 hours x 5 days in the first week and 9 hours x 3 days and 8 hours x 1 day and a Regular Day Off (RDO) for the second week of each pay period. This AWS would be exchanged or rotated at a scheduled time between the two Medical Clerks, every 6 months for example. Duty hours for the Medical Clerk on AWS would be from 0700-1700 on the 9-hour days, and from 0800-1700 on the 8-hour day, both with an hour for lunch. Duty hours for the Medical Clerk not on an AWS would remain 0730-1630, with an hour for lunch.

The current 4/10 work schedule has caused staffing problems on the clerks’ Monday and Friday off-duty days. On at least eight occasions "just since the beginning of 1996," only one clerk has been available for duty because the second clerk who is scheduled for duty has taken annual or sick leave, or attended training. One clerk cannot provide adequate coverage of administrative duties.(4) To ensure that patients can be treated, military personnel, who are responsible for direct patient care, have performed the clerks’ administrative duties. Because of this degradation in duties, patients are delayed in receiving treatment.(5) Hence, its proposal is reasonable because it would permit the clerks to retain access to some form of AWS program, while allowing the hospital to improve customer service by reducing the number of days in which only two clerks are scheduled for duty.

    The Union’s proposal, on the other hand, "clearly intends for soldiers, who provide direct patient care, to perform the clerical work of the employees while the employees enjoy the day off." This "arguably interferes with the Agency’s right to assign work." Moreover, there is no current policy to use military personnel on a staggering schedule, "or any other type of schedule." Finally, with respect to the Union’s contention that the Employer has failed to demonstrate "adverse agency impact," because it intends to continue an AWS for the affected employees, such a demonstration is unnecessary. In this regard, in previous cases the Panel has ordered the implementation of 5-4/9 schedules instead of 4/10 schedules without addressing the issue of whether adverse agency impact was proved.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes "no change from the established policy. Alternate coverage shall be accomplished consistent with the current policy of utilizing military personnel only on a staggering schedule." In this regard, the Employer has not demonstrated an adverse agency impact "pursuant to Section 6131" of the Act, to justify terminating the schedule. The current staff has met all the requirements