DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE and PORTSMOUTH METAL TRADES COUNCIL, AFL-CIO

United States of America

BEFORE THE FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL

 

In the Matter of

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

 

 

 

 

Case No. 98 FSIP 129

and

PORTSMOUTH METAL TRADES COUNCIL,

AFL-CIO

DECISION AND ORDER

    The Department of the Navy, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Employer or Shipyard) and the Portsmouth Metal Trades Council, AFL-CIO (Union), jointly 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.

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns amenities for outside smoking shelters, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of written submissions from the parties, including rebuttals. After receiving their submissions, the Panel would take whatever action it deems appropriate to resolve the impasse. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure,(1) and the Panel has now considered the entire record.

BACKGROUND

    The Employer’s mission is to repair and refurbish naval vessels for the Atlantic Fleet. The Union presents approximately 1,200 bargaining-unit employees, the majority of whom are professionally-trained mechanics. The parties’ master collective-bargaining agreement, which was to have expired in 1985, has been renewed annually. The dispute arose during bargaining over a smoking policy for the Shipyard.(2) The parties have agreed that in order to accommodate smokers who will be prohibited from smoking indoors when the smoking policy is implemented, the Employer shall construct 18 smoking shelters in designated areas throughout the Shipyard which measure 4 feet by 8 feet, are made of a plexiglass-type material with a steel frame and standard personnel door, do not have seating, and are ventilated through swinging doors and the base of the structure, which has a 3-inch opening around the bottom.

ISSUE AT IMPASSE

      The sole issue in dispute is whether the smoking shelters should be heated and have their own lighting.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

1. The Union’s Position

     The Union proposes that the smoking shelters be equipped with heat and lights; in the alternative, the shelters should be equipped with only lights. Essentially, without being heated, snow and ice are likely to accumulate in the shelters during winter, thereby creating safety concerns for employees who may slip and fall while standing in them. If they are heated, snow and ice would melt, eliminating potentially slippery surfaces. Providing these amenities also would help the Employer avoid Workers’ Compensation claims since employee injury is less likely to occur in such circumstances. Furthermore, because snow and ice are prevalent during 6 months of the year, heating the shelters would provide employees with a more comfortable environment in which to take their smoking breaks. Conversely, if the shelters are not equipped with heat and lights employees might not use them due to safety concerns and the lack of "creature comfort." In addition, employees may be tempted to smoke indoors which could result in workplace conflicts with non-smokers.

    In the alternative, should the Panel determine that heating the shelters is not warranted, the Employer should, at a minimum, be required to install direct lighting for them. Ambient lighting, which the Employer proposes, may be inadequate when a shelter is not heated. In this connection, frost is likely to accumulate on the glass walls and prevent the light from nearby buildings and street lights from penetrating the glass. Without the bright illumination of direct lighting, smoking shelters would be dark during the second and third shifts, posing a threat to employee safety and security.

2. The Employer’s Position

     In essence, the Employer proposes that outdoor smoking shelters should not be heated and lighting for them should be ambient, except where this would not provide adequate illumination. Heating and directly lighting a shelter would require that electrical service be provided to each of 18 smoking shelters at an exorbitant cost for construction and maintenance. In this regard, estimates indicate that without electrical service, each shelter should cost approximately $10,500 to construct; adding electrical service would increase the cost significantly to approximately $14,550 per shelter. Additionally, annual maintenance costs would increase threefold from an estimated $182 per shelter, without electricity, to $616 with electricity. Moreover, the design of the smoking shelters, with a 3-inch opening at the bottom perimeter and swinging personnel doors, is not conducive to holding heat; since the structures are not weather-tight, the Employer, in essence, would be paying to "heat all outdoors" if the Union’s proposal is adopted. Shelters are not intended to be comfort zones for employees but, rather, should provide them with a "modicum" or "measure of protection" from the elements, as the Panel has ordered in other cases involving smoking policy.(3) Furthermore, employees are accustomed to dressing for severe weather in the wintertime and, therefore, it is likely that standing in an unheated shelter for a short period of time while on a smoke break would not be uncomfortable for them.