Thursday, September 30, 2010
NATCA Prevails in a Grievance Concerning Official Time
The arbitrator sustained the union’s grievance over the agency’s denial of official time for an airports representative to also act as the ADO and Branch representatives.
The grievant is a regional representative for the Airports Division and Airports District Offices in the Southern Region (also known as the ARP bargaining unit). The parties’ CBA affords the grievant eight hours of official time per pay period as the regional representative. The grievant was also designated to act as the union’s Branch and ADO representatives. Each of these positions is allotted two hours of official time per pay period in accordance with Article 2, Section 12 of the parties’ CBA. The agency, however, denied the grievant the additional hours to function as the Branch and ADO representatives after several months of the grievant acting in these capacities. The basis of the agency’s denial, as claimed, was that the parties’ CBA barred one representative to also act in other union positions.
As a result, the union filed a grievance to challenge the agency’s misinterpretation of the meaning of Article 2, Section 12 of the parties’ Multi-Unit CBA. The union asserted the fact that nothing in the Official Time provision (Article 2) prohibited the ARP regional representative to also act as the unit’s Branch and ADO representatives. The union argued that the contract language was clear and unambiguous concerning the negotiated official time allotted for each of the representative positions under Article 2, Section 12 regardless who held the position. The union directed the arbitrator to the well-settled case law concerning the union’s right to designate its own representatives, which is also articulated in Article 2. The only exception for denying the request for official time is if operational needs exist, which the agency never raised as an issue.
The arbitrator agreed with the union’s position and arguments on all fronts. He stated, “[G]iven that nothing in the contract prohibits one person from assuming more than one representative role – as admitted to by Mr. Stringer [the Agency’s contract witness] – the arbitrator concludes that the Agency did violate the contract when it denied official time for Mr. Nicholson to perform representative duties for the ADO and Branch offices.” The arbitrator went on to conclude that if the agency had concerns about the grievant not spending enough time on his duties, “[t]hen Mr. Black [the Supervisor] has resort to the language of Section 12 whereby official hours may be denied due to operational conditions.”
Accordingly, the arbitrator directed the agency to allow the grievant to continue in his representative roles and approve the requested official time, unless prohibited by operational conditions.