What would you do if the agency unilateral changed a break room into a conference room, replaced the union office with a new break room that was one-third the size of the old one, and also moved the union to a smaller office?  Here is what AFGE did.

Given those facts, the union could have filed a ULP to get an order that the agency put everything back the way it was.  But it also had the option to push the issue to the FSIP as a bargaining impasse and argue that on the merits the agency be ordered to rebuild everything.  AFGE chose the latter and won it all.

The Panel assigned the case to Chairman Mary E. Jacksteit to make a decision after a med-arb hearing.  Her decision, AFGE 2011 FSIP 73, ruled that “Given the substantial change in the nature of the break/lunch room, it was up to the Employer to establish a sufficiently strong justification. What was presented was not persuasive to this Arbitrator.”

Jacksteit went on to criticize that the new break room accommodates only a few people, that it lacks privacy, and that use of the room’s appliances are constricted when people are seated. Our favorite sentence in her decision is this, “It seems the Agency regarded this functionality of the room – socializing, resting, relaxing – as unimportant. But this has been a feature of the Pediatrics break/lunch room for a very long time. No evidence of any kind was offered to show that in fact the room has not been used this way, or was underutilized in any respect.”

She also noted that the agency could only justify a need for the room for three hours a week and only for the personal benefit of the Medical Director.  Finally, she found that the agency had many other rooms that the Medical director could use, even though they required the Director walk a few minutes from his office.

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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