Monday, March 28, 2011
NATCA Gets Suspension Reduced
NATCA just settled a grievance against RVA, Inc. regarding the 10-day suspension of an employee for unauthorized use of a laptop while on position. RVA gave an employee a 10-day suspension after discovering that had used a personal laptop computer while on position in the tower cab, which was against RVA policy and specifically prohibited in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Through negotiations with the employer, NATCA obtained a reduction in the penalty to a five-day suspension.
Arbitrator Upholds Removal Based Upon Training Failure
NATCA received an unfavorable ruling in a training failure removal case. The union asserted that the agency violated the contract and the training order by ignoring the grievant’s request for a break in training due to severe marital problems that were impacting his training progress. Instead of granting a break in training, the agency required the trainee to undergo a certification skill check for his first radar sector, which he failed. After the training review board reinstated the trainee, he failed to recertify on his six D-side positions for which he had lost currency during the training review board process. The agency assigned the same supervisor who failed him on the radar sector to supervise his recertification training on the D-sides. The grievant failed three recertification attempts and the agency proposed his removal. The union objected and requested an opportunity to demonstrate performance instead of removal. The facility was ordered by outside FAA management to provide a 90-day ODAP. At the end of the 90 days, the same training supervisor who failed him on the radar certification failed him on the three recertification attempts, failed him on the ODAP, and recommended removal. The ATM refused to recommend the grievant for a lower-rated facility, and he was removed.
The arbitrator rejected the union’s claim that the agency violated the contract and the training order by ignoring the grievant’s extenuating circumstances and refusing his request for a break in training, even though the union showed that other trainees were granted a break in training under similar circumstances. The arbitrator held that the agency offered the grievant medical leave and EAP counseling and, therefore, had addressed his circumstances in accordance with the contract.
The arbitrator also rejected the union’s claim that the training supervisor was biased, and that the agency only reluctantly granted the ODAP and had no real intention of granting the grievant an opportunity to succeed. The arbitrator held that the agency is not required to provide a new training supervisor after a training review board reinstates a trainee and that consistent negative feedback from the training supervisor reflected the grievant’s poor performance rather than bias.
Finally, the arbitrator rejected the union’s claim that the agency violated the contract by not offering the grievant a reassignment to a lower-rated facility, despite evidence that every other trainee who had achieved six D-sides was reassigned. The arbitrator held that having certified on six D-sides and then failing to recertify was a unique situation, and that the agency had discretion to deny a reassignment based on its assessment of the grievant's performance. Again, the arbitrator cited the grievant’s poor performance as sufficient evidence that the agency properly removed the grievant to promote the efficiency of the service.
The arbitrator’s award demonstrates the difficulty of overcoming agency bias and discretion in training failure removal cases.