BORDER PATROL COUNCIL SETS UNIFORM $$$ PRECEDENT

The Border Patrol Council set a nice precedent for the rest of us whose members are required to purchase uniforms.  Thanks to what the arbitrator ruled was Customs and Border Protection’s rigidity, management was forced to pay twice the annual uniform reimbursement cap mentioned in regulation.  Here is how AFGE did it.

When management announced that Border Patrol Agents had to purchase rough duty uniforms (RDUs), the union asked that employees be reimbursed for the initial purchase of six of them.  Management not only refused to pay for more than three, but it also unilaterally implemented the uniform requirement forcing employees to pay out of their own pocket for anything more than three uniforms.  The union had argued that they needed more than three because agents worked in severe weather conditions, they were unable to launder their uniforms during the work week, and there was a compelling need to change clothes daily for sanitary reasons. The arbitrator ordered management to pay for all six uniforms as a remedy for its violation. See BORDER PATROL COUNCIL, 66 FLRA No. 37.

The Agency argued in the exceptions it filed with FLRA to the arbitrator’s decision that the monetary remedy awarded by the Arbitrator was contrary to the requirements of the uniform statute and regulations.  (5 U.S.C. § 5901)  But FLRA ruled, “The Agency has the discretion to determine what constitutes the “minimum basic uniform” within the meaning of the uniform regulations. 5 C.F.R. § 591.104(b).  Although the Agency asserts that it currently issues three RDUs to new agents, neither this fact, nor the uniform statute and regulations, establishes that the Agency could not determine that six RDUs constitute the “minimum basic uniform.” Id. By finding that the Agency was obligated to “adequately and fairly compensate[] employees for the cost of . . . uniforms,” . . . the Arbitrator effectively found that the Agency obligated itself to exercise its discretion to make six RDUs the “minimum basic uniform” for purposes of the uniform regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 591.104(b).  Accordingly, the Agency has not established that the award is contrary to the uniform statute and regulations, and we deny the Agency’s exception arguing that the award is contrary to law in this regard.”

Nice work, Border Patrol Council.  This is the first FLRA case showing all of us a way to increase the amount we are compensated for uniforms. so long as we have evidence that the agency has effectively imposed a “minimum basic uniform” we can exceed the regulatory cap target.  If you are bargaining over uniform reimbursement read this case closely to see how the AFGE Council did that.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.

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