B-134738, FEB. 21, 1958

B-134738: Feb 21, 1958

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THE UNGRADED EMPLOYEES OF THE AMARILLO AND EXELL PLANTS ARE UNIONIZED AND THEY NEGOTIATE THEIR WAGE RATES UNDER THE GENERAL AGREEMENT. - WHICH WAS APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY OF INTERIOR AUGUST 22. UNDER THAT AGREEMENT THE NEGOTIATED RATES ARE SUBJECT TO APPROVAL BY THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR. IS THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE AGREED-TO INCREASE. - THE MATTER IS TAKEN TO A BOARD OF ARBITRATORS. THAT "THE DECISION AND AWARD OF THE BOARD OF ARBITRATORS IS APPROVED WITHOUT QUALIFICATION AND THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE WAGE INCREASES FOR THE EXELL AND AMARILLO PLANTS SHALL BE SEPTEMBER 1. WAGE SURVEYS WERE CONDUCTED TO DETERMINE THE PREVAILING WAGE PRACTICES WITHIN THE BUREAU'S AREA OF OPERATION. THE WAGE DATA GATHERED BY THE WAGE BOARD WERE TO BE APPLIED TO ALL FOUR OF THE HELIUM PLANTS AND BECAME THE BASIS FOR THE HELIUM ACTIVITY WAGE BOARD'S RECOMMENDED INCREASE FOR THE UNGRADED EMPLOYEES AT THE NONUNIONIZED NAVAJO AND OTIS PLANTS.

B-134738, FEB. 21, 1958

TO MR. JAMES T. LEWIS:

YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 17, 1957, REQUESTS OUR DECISION WHETHER YOU MAY CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT THE ENCLOSED SUPPLEMENTAL PAYROLL VOUCHERS (4) COVERING THE RETROACTIVE INCREASE IN THE WAGE RATES OF UNGRADED EMPLOYEES OF THE BUREAU OF MINES, HELIUM ACTIVITY, AMARILLO, TEXAS, EXELL, TEXAS, SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO, AND OTIS, KANSAS. THE VOUCHERS COVER THE PERIOD SEPTEMBER 1 TO NOVEMBER 16, 1957.

THE UNGRADED EMPLOYEES OF THE AMARILLO AND EXELL PLANTS ARE UNIONIZED AND THEY NEGOTIATE THEIR WAGE RATES UNDER THE GENERAL AGREEMENT--- WHICH WAS APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY OF INTERIOR AUGUST 22, 1952, AND SUPPLEMENTED JANUARY 19, 1953--- BETWEEN THE BUREAU OF MINES AND THE EMPLOYEES' UNION. UNDER THAT AGREEMENT THE NEGOTIATED RATES ARE SUBJECT TO APPROVAL BY THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR--- HELIUM OF THE BUREAU, TO WHOM AUTHORITY HAS BEEN DELEGATED PURSUANT TO SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR ORDER NO. 2803 DATED OCTOBER 14, 1955. PURSUANT THERETO THE BUREAU OF MINES MANUAL AUTHORIZES THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-- HELIUM TO "APPROVE WAGE RATES FOR UNGRADED EMPLOYEES" AND ,SUBJECT TO STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS, CIVIL SERVICE, DEPARTMENT, AND BUREAU POLICIES AND REGULATIONS, BUDGETARY LIMITATIONS, AND APPROVED ORGANIZATIONAL PLANS.'

UNDER THE ABOVE GENERAL AGREEMENT, HOWEVER, IF THE BUREAU AND THE EMPLOYEES' UNION FAIL TO AGREE UPON A POINT OF A MATTER BEING NEGOTIATED-- - WHICH, SO FAR AS PERTINENT HERE, IS THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE AGREED-TO INCREASE--- THE MATTER IS TAKEN TO A BOARD OF ARBITRATORS. THE GENERAL AGREEMENT PROVIDES "THE DECISION OF THE MAJORITY OF SAID ARBITRATORS SHALL BE SUBMITTED TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR FOR CONSIDERATION, AND THE DECISION OF THE SECRETARY IN THE MATTER SHALL BE FINAL AND BINDING ON BOTH PARTIES.' ON AUGUST 31, 1957, THE BOARD OF ARBITRATORS RENDERED THEIR DECISION AND AWARD, AND A MAJORITY OF SAID BOARD RECOMMENDED SEPTEMBER 1, 1957, AS THE EFFECTIVE DATE, OR A LATER DATE AS SPECIFIED, WHICHEVER THE SECRETARY OF INTERIOR DETERMINES TO BE CONSISTENT WITH GOVERNMENT POLICY. THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR BY MEMORANDUM DATED NOVEMBER 4, 1957, ADVISED THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF MINES, THAT "THE DECISION AND AWARD OF THE BOARD OF ARBITRATORS IS APPROVED WITHOUT QUALIFICATION AND THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE WAGE INCREASES FOR THE EXELL AND AMARILLO PLANTS SHALL BE SEPTEMBER 1, 1957," AND THAT SPECIFIC WAGE SCHEDULES REFLECTING THE DECISION AND AWARD SHALL BE ISSUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH NORMAL PROCEDURES.

PRIOR TO THOSE NEGOTIATION AND ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS, WAGE SURVEYS WERE CONDUCTED TO DETERMINE THE PREVAILING WAGE PRACTICES WITHIN THE BUREAU'S AREA OF OPERATION, AS CONTEMPLATED IN SECTION 202 (7) OF THE CLASSIFICATION ACT OF 1949, AS AMENDED, 5 U.S.C. 1082 (7). THE WAGE DATA GATHERED BY THE WAGE BOARD WERE TO BE APPLIED TO ALL FOUR OF THE HELIUM PLANTS AND BECAME THE BASIS FOR THE HELIUM ACTIVITY WAGE BOARD'S RECOMMENDED INCREASE FOR THE UNGRADED EMPLOYEES AT THE NONUNIONIZED NAVAJO AND OTIS PLANTS.

IT APPEARS THE WAGE BOARD INFORMED THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR--- HELIUM OF THEIR SURVEY FINDINGS, BUT WITHHELD THEIR FORMAL WRITTEN RECOMMENDATIONS UNTIL AFTER THE BOARD OF ARBITRATORS HAD REACHED DECISION, DATED AUGUST 31, 1957, RESPECTING THE AMARILLO AND EXELL PLANTS. THE WAGE BOARD MADE ITS WRITTEN RECOMMENDATION ON SEPTEMBER 18, 1957. YOU SAY THAT AS A MATTER OF EQUITY, UNIFORMITY, AND TO FACILITATE INTERPLANT TRANSFERS, IT IS THE LONG ESTABLISHED PRACTICE OF THE BUREAU TO APPLY THE SAME WAGE RATE CHANGES SIMULTANEOUSLY AT ALL FOUR PLANTS. FOR THAT REASON, YOU SAY THE WAGE BOARD DELAYED THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS RESPECTING THE NAVAJO AND OTIS PLANTS UNTIL IT WAS REASONABLY ASSURED THAT A SIMILAR RATE WOULD PREVAIL AT THE AMARILLO AND EXELL PLANTS. THE WAGE BOARD'S FORMAL RECOMMENDATIONS, DATED SEPTEMBER 18 WERE APPROVED NOVEMBER 18, 1957, BY THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR--- HELIUM.

WHILE THE WAGE BOARD FORMALLY RECOMMENDED THAT THE WAGE INCREASES BE ADOPTED "EFFECTIVE UPON APPROVAL OR NOT LATER THAN THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST PAYROLL PERIOD FOLLOWING ADMINISTRATIVE APPROVAL," THE BOARD EXPLAINED TO THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR--- HELIUM THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THEIR DECISION AND FURTHER RECOMMENDATION THAT THE NEW SCHEDULE FOR THE EMPLOYEES AT THE OTIS AND NAVAJO PLANTS BE APPROVED TO BE EFFECTIVE ON THE SAME DATE THE NEGOTIATED WAGE RATES ARE EFFECTIVE FOR THE AMARILLO AND EXELL PLANTS. IN THAT REGARD THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR--- HELIUM SUPPLEMENTED HIS APPROVAL OF THE BOARD'S ACTION BY A MEMORANDUM ATTACHMENT EXPLAINING THAT HIS "FORMAL APPROVAL COULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO WAGE INCREASES FOR THE SHIPROCK AND OTIS PLANTS AT THE COMPLETION OF THE ABOVE SURVEY, BUT THIS APPROVAL WAS WITHHELD IN THE INTEREST OF EQUITY AND PAST PRACTICE, PENDING THE COMPLETION OF NEGOTIATIONS AT THE OTHER TWO PLANTS UNDER A BARGAINING AGREEMENT THEN BEING NEGOTIATED WITH THE UNION.' HIS EXPRESS OPINION, THEREFORE, IS THAT "IF THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE WAGE INCREASES FOR AMARILLO AND EXELL BECOMES SEPTEMBER 1, 1957, THAT THE SAME DATE SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY BECOME THE EFFECTIVE DATE FOR THE WAGE INCREASES FOR THE OTIS AND NAVAJO PLANT EMPLOYEES.'

IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THE ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED EFFECTIVE DATE OF SEPTEMBER 1, 1957, FOR THE WAGE INCREASES AT ALL FOUR OF THE PLANTS IS HELD TO HAVE BEEN PROPER. CF. 28 COMP. GEN. 644; B-126868, MAY 31, 1956, TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.

REGARDING THE EMPLOYEES LISTED IN YOUR LETTER, WHOSE NAMES APPEAR ON THE VOUCHER AND WHOSE EMPLOYMENT WITH THE BUREAU WAS TERMINATED SUBSEQUENT TO SEPTEMBER 1, 1957, BUT WHO HAVE NOT BEEN PAID THE INCREASE, IF THEIR CURRENT CORRECT ADDRESSES ARE KNOWN OR CAN BE READILY VERIFIED, THE PAY ADJUSTMENT DUE THEM MAY BE PAID WITHOUT EACH FILING A SEPARATE CLAIM THEREFOR. CF. 31 COMP. GEN. 166, 173.

THEREFORE, THE FOUR VOUCHERS WITH PAPERS SUBMITTED HERE ARE RETURNED AND, IF CORRECT IN OTHER RESPECTS, THEY MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.