U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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United States of America




In the Matter of











Case No. 97 FSIP 103




    The Benning Education Association, Federal Education Association, NEA (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 (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of Defense (DOD), Domestic Dependents Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS), Fort Benning Schools, Fort Benning, Georgia (Employer).

    After investigation of the request for assistance, which concerned pay issues pertaining to School Year (SY) 1997-98, the Panel directed the parties to participate in an informal conference with a Panel representative for the purpose of resolving the outstanding issues.(1) The parties were advised that if no settlement were reached, the representative would report to the Panel on the status of the dispute, including the parties’ final offers and his recommendations for resolving the impasse. After considering this information, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a binding decision.

    Pursuant to this procedural determination, Executive Director H. Joseph Schimansky met with the parties on August 28, 1997, at Fort Benning, Georgia. During the informal conference, the parties were able to resolve three of the four issues over which the Panel asserted jurisdiction,(2) but were unable to reach agreement regarding SY 1997-98 pay raises for bargaining-unit employees. Mr. Schimansky has reported to the Panel, and it has now considered the entire record.(3)


    The Employer operates seven elementary and middle schools for the purpose of educating the dependent children of military personnel stationed and residing at Fort Benning. The Union represents approximately 217 professional employees who are part of a consolidated bargaining unit of about 2,500 employees. The great majority of unit employees work as classroom teachers, while others are guidance counselors, information specialists, nurses, and psychologists; their pay and benefits are subject to negotiations on an annual basis. This dispute concerns all unit employees. While negotiations over a national collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are ongoing, the parties are covered by a local CBA which was to have expired in April 1997 but continues in effect by mutual agreement.


    The parties disagree over what the percentage salary increase for bargaining-unit employees should be in SY 1997-98.


1. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes that the SY 1996-97 salary schedule be increased by 2 percent for SY 1997-98.(4) When added to the 2.2 percent step increase that the parties agreed to earlier in the year, its proposal is both fair and fiscally responsible. In this regard, adopting its position would maintain the comparability of salaries of unit employees at Fort Benning, as required by law.(5) A comparison of the salary schedules of employees at Fort Benning with those at the State capital in Atlanta, Georgia, and adjacent public school systems in Muscogee County, Georgia, and Decatur City, Georgia, confirms that while salaries at entry levels are generally slightly lower at Fort Benning, at the top steps of the pay scale they are generally higher, in some cases significantly so. This reflects the reality that Fort Benning Schools has rarely had to hire teachers at the entry level, partly because turnover is extremely low. It also leads to the conclusion that a larger salary increase cannot by justified on the basis of recruitment. Moreover, overall working conditions at Fort Benning are preferable to those in the surrounding school systems.

    Its proposal is also consistent with the budgetary policy guidance provided by DOD, which assumes a civilian pay raise of 2.8 percent for Calendar Year (CY) 1998, as well as local budgetary forecasts. In terms of the latter, the Employer projects an overall budget decrease of $174,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 1998 from FY 1997 levels, while pay and benefits, as a percentage of the total budget, are projected to increase from 84 percent (FY 1997) to 92 percent (FY 1998). In short, even its proposed 2-percent salary increase is more than it can comfortably afford, and would require belt-tightening in other areas. Given its budgetary outlook, the Union’s proposal for a 9-percent increase is totally unrealistic. It is also out of line with the salary increases received by employees for SY 1996-97 at most of the other 12 DDESS installations. Significantly, the salary increases that were either imposed or brokered by Panel Members or private arbitrators during the past year were far less than currently being proposed by the Union, and more consistent with the Employer’s approach.(6) For these reasons, a 2-percent increase should be adopted by the Panel to resolve the parties’ dispute.

2. The Union’s Position

    The Union proposes that the salary schedule be increased by 9 percent for SY 1997-98. Unit employees deserve this amount for a variety of reasons, among them, the cost of living in Columbus, Georgia, where Fort Benning is located; the fact that the State of Georgia still ranks only 26th on the national list of salaries paid to educators; and because Fort Benning students routinely score above the national average on standardized tests, which is attributable to the dedication of the teachers within the school system. In this regard, the Commanding Officer at Fort Benning recently commended the Union and the teachers it represents in a letter for their outstanding accomplishments in educating Fort Benning students. In addition, the Atlanta school board recently approved a new salary scale for Atlanta teachers granting them as much as 11 percent in salary increases.

    The Employer’s proposed increase of 2 percent is inadequate, and should be rejected. By way of background, unit employees have received increases of 5, 5 (plus a 1-percent bonus), and 6.08 percent, respectively, over the past 3 SYs, reflecting similar amounts authorized by the Georgia Legislature for Georgia public school teachers during that time period. For SY 1997-98, the Georgia Legislature has approved a 6-percent increase. If such increases were granted by Fort Benning management during the previous 3 years to maintain the comparability of unit employees’ pay in accordance with the requirements of 10 U.S.C. § 2164, it is legitimate to ask why at least a 6-percent salary increase would not be required to maintain comparability during SY 1997-98. The Employer’s argument that it cannot afford a larger pay raise is both self-serving and misleading. Responses by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), the higher level entity of which DDESS is a part, to recent Union requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) confirm that it received precisely the budget amount it requested in SY 1997-98. They also establish that overall from FY 1994 through FY 1996, DDESS obligated (spent) considerably less money than it was appropriated. Finally, contrary to the Employer’s position, it is inappropriate to count the step increase of 2.2 percent as part of the pay raise that unit employees will receive during SY 1997-98. It is a long-standing practice within the teaching profession that such increases are earned on the basis of experience. Moreover, approximately 28 percent of the unit is already at the top step of the salary schedule and, hence, ineligible for the step increase.


    Having carefully reviewed the evidence and arguments provided by the parties in support of their proposals in this case, we shall order a 3-percent increase to the current salary schedule for SY 1997-98. In our view, a larger increase is unnecessary to maintain the comparability of compensation at Fort Benning in accordance with the requirements of 10 U.S.C. § 2164. In this regard, the record shows that unit employees’ salaries compare favorably even with public school teachers who are among the highest paid in the State of Georgia, those in the Atlanta school system. In addition, we are persuaded that a 3-percent increase is a fair compromise because it is consistent with the raises received by employees in SY 1996-97, and SY 1997-98 (to the extent such information is available), at the other installations within DDESS. In particular, the same percentage increase was granted to employees for SY 1996-97 at Fort Stewart, Georgia. It is also greater than the average 2.8-percent increase recently authorized by the President for Federal employees under the General Schedule in CY 1998. Finally, our decision is not intended to diminish in any way the outstanding efforts of unit employees who have contributed greatly to Fort Benning’s being named the world’s best U.S. Army post for the fourth time in the last 5 years. Rather, consistent with the rationale provided above, it is based primarily on the conclusion that under the facts and circumstances presented, the Union has simply failed to demonstrate the need for a higher salary increase.


    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the adoption of the following wording:

The SY 1996-97 salary schedule shall be increased by 3 percent for SY 1997-98.


By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

September 11, 1997

Washington, D.C.


1.The Union initially requested that the Panel assert jurisdiction over six issues. After considering the Employer’s jurisdictional arguments, the Panel declined to assert jurisdiction over issues involving: (1) the distribution of travel funds throughout the school year, and (2) the cashing in of unused sick leave.

2.The issues which were resolved voluntarily concerned: (1) additional compensation for guidance counselors and psychologists for additional hours worked outside their normal duty day; (2) whether teachers at the top step of the salary chart should receive an additional 3-percent pay increase; and (3) the number of after-school meetings or events teachers may be required to attend without receiving additional compensation.

3.The record includes extensive written material in three-ring binders which both parties prepared prior to the informal conference.

4.At the start of the informal conference, the Employer proposed a ½-percent increase.

5.10 U.S.C. § 2164(e)(3)(A), which sets forth the authority of the Secretary of Defense to fix compensation for the DDESS, specifies as follows:

(3)(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), in fixing the compensation of employees appointed for a school pursuant to paragraph (2), the Secretary shall consider--

    (i) the compensation of comparable employees of the local educational agency in the capital of the State where the military installation is located;

    (ii) the compensation of comparable employees in the local educational agency that provides public education to students who reside adjacent to the military installation; and

    (iii) the average compensation for similar positions in not more than three other local educational agencies in the State in which the military installation is located.

6.At Fort Stewart, Georgia, Panel Member Stanley M. Fisher mediated an agreement for SY 1996-97 of 3 percent; Panel Member Gilbert Carrillo ordered a 2.5 percent increase for SY 1996-97 at Laurel Bay, South Carolina; and a private arbitrator selected by the parties at the Panel’s direction ordered 2-percent salary increases in both FY 1997 and FY 1998 at Fort Knox, Kentucky.