Mr. Colin Patrick Walle

Secretary – Treasurer




Re: July 25, 2003 Informal Grievance, Seattle Passport Agency Change to Work Schedules



Dear Mr. Walle:



This letter responds to the informal grievance you filed on July 25 following the Seattle Passport Agency’s decision to change the earliest and latest times its employees may work.  You assert Management has committed several violations of the Passport Services – NFFE local 1998 agreement of July 2001 (the Agreement), and request relief to remedy the alleged violations.


Before I turn to the substance of your grievance, there are two procedural items that need to be addressed.  First, I must point out that I view this grievance (filed by you on behalf of Alex Allen, NFFE Local 1998 President) not as an informal grievance as described in Article 20, Section 6 of the Agreement, but rather as a grievance between the parties as described in Article 20, Section 8 of the Agreement.  Secondly, you had granted an extension until August 25 for Management to reply.  Accordingly, this grievance decision is timely issued.


I have carefully considered your allegations as well as  information from Seattle Passport Agency management.  For the sake of brevity and clarity, I choose not to address each point in detail.  It is clear that the salient issue is whether or not the decision to require supervisory presence and oversight in determining when the agency is available to employees for work is a right reserved to management by law as contained in Article 5 of the Agreement.


Article 5 of the Agreement states that,


Subject to Section (3) of this Article, nothing in this Agreement shall affect the authority of any management official of the Employer:

(a)    To determine the mission, budget, organization, number of employees, and internal security practices of the Employer; …


Section 3 provides that,


Nothing in this Article shall preclude the Employer and the Union from negotiating:


(a)    At the election of the Employer, on the numbers, types, and grades of employees or positions assigned to any organizational subdivision, work project, or tour of duty, or on the technology, methods and means of performing work.

(b)    Procedures by which management officials of the Employer will observe in exercising any authority under this Article; or

(c)    Appropriate arrangements for employees adversely affected by the exercise of any authority under this Article by such management officials.


Passport Services Management has exercised its reserved right through the establishment of internal security practices requiring supervisory presence and limiting access to lock combinations.  A basic component of these internal security practices is to set employee start and stop times to mesh with supervisory presence.  Therefore, I find that the issue of PPT/SE start-stop times is non-negotiable as it relates to Management’s reserved right to establish the internal security practices of the Agency. 


I now turn to your allegations that Management has committed several violations.  You allege that Management has not negotiated in good faith, as evidenced in part by the refusal to agree to the Union’s proposed ground rules.  You also state the Union’s belief that Management has negotiated in bad faith by “proposing changes that simply are not necessary, serve no legitimate purpose and are not offered for the reasons stated….”


I cannot agree with your allegation.  I can find no reason why negotiating parties require ground rules to govern negotiations during the life of a contract over a single straightforward issue – implementing procedures and appropriate arrangements for unit employees adversely affected by Management’s exercise of its reserved right to establish its internal security practices (I&I bargaining).  While I can appreciate the Union’s perspective that it does not agree with how Management has decided to exercise its reserved right, I must remind the Union that the right is reserved to Management, subject to I&I bargaining.


You also take issue with the timeliness of Management’s declaration of non-negotiability.  Again, I must disagree.  My review of the circumstances surrounding the negotiations leads me to conclude that Management made every effort to try to coax negotiable I&I proposals out of the Union in order to reach a win-win solution.  When Management concluded that its repeated efforts to sway the Union from its counterproposal of status quo, or alternatively, from the its proposed package deal that went well beyond the scope of I&I bargaining, Management was left with no alternative but to declare the Union’s proposals non-negotiable, and it did so at the earliest opportunity.


Your third allegation is that Management failed to provide a rationale for a claim of non-negotiability.  To the contrary, Ms. Bobotek stated the basis for the declaration of non-negotiability in her July 10th memo.  Of course, the negotiability appeal filed by the Union will decide this issue.


Next, you allege that unit employees are receiving disparate and inequitable treatment, and you cite Article 6, Section 5 of the Agreement as the contractual basis for this allegation.  I do not agree that Article 6, Section 5 is violated, nor do I find any evidence of disparate and inequitable treatment.  The Union ascribes an intention to Management’s exercise of its reserved right that is simply false.  Management has no reason to doubt the trustworthiness of the two 6:30 am start time employees; indeed, Management values their contribution to accomplishing the Mission of Passport Services.  However, it is precisely that purpose – accomplishment of the Agency’s mission -- that necessitated the change in the earliest start and latest stop times.


Your final allegation is that changing the start time to 7:00 am is not in the public interest, as drawn from the Findings and Purpose stated at 5 USC 7101 and repeated in the Agreement.  Quite to the contrary, Management’s decision to establish its internal security procedures to require supervisory presence and to control access to lock combinations, was made in the furtherance of the public interest, a goal that far outweighs the noted inconvenience to the two employees who now have to start work one-half hour later.


Therefore, the grievance and the relief requested by NFFE Local 1998 are denied.  That being said, I believe there is another equally important issue that must be addressed.  It is clear from the record that PPT/SE management and NFFE representatives spent a great deal of time and energy addressing this issue.  Within the parameters dictated by internal security practices over which local management has very little control, there appears to me to have been great willingness on the part of management to reach an agreement on implementing procedures and appropriate arrangements for unit employees adversely affected by management’s exercise of its retained rights with NFFE representatives, unfortunately without success.  Clearly, there is a difference of opinion concerning the non-negotiability of the schedule change in Seattle; that will be addressed in the negotiability appeal proceedings currently pending before the Federal Labor Relations Authority.  In the spirit of reconciliation I am hopeful that the scheduled alternative dispute resolution will satisfactorily address the concerns of the bargaining unit, while preserving management’s reserved rights.






Florence C. Fultz