Commission Restrains Arbitration Over Termination of Maintenance Plumber

Camden County College and Camden County College Support Staff Association

In P.E.R.C. No. 2017-7, the Commission restrained arbitration of a grievance challenging the termination of a maintenance plumber who allegedly no longer met the required job qualification of maintaining a valid New Jersey driver’s license.  The Commission found that the employer had a managerial prerogative to determine job qualifications and the union could not pursue its claim that the termination was unjust.  In 1968, the Legislature amended the Employer-Employee Relations Act to permit binding arbitration of disputes involving the major discipline of most public employees.  N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3.  The Commission did not address the 1968 discipline amendment.

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Filed under 2016

Commission Finds That Employer Had to Negotiate Before Reducing Secretary’s Work Year

Hackettstown Board of Education and Hackettstown Education Association

In P.E.R.C. No. 2017-9, the Commission found that the Board violated the Act when it unilaterally reduced a secretary’s work year from 12 to 10.5 months for reasons of economy.  Balancing the parties’ interests, the Commission found that the employee interests in negotiating over the length of the work year and corresponding pay outweighed the Board’s interest in unilaterally reducing the work year and pay.  The Commission distinguished the Supreme Court’s decision in Borough of Keport v. Int’l Union of Operating Engineers, Local 68, 222 N.J. 314 (2015), and its decision in Robbinsville Tp. Bd. of Ed. and Washington Tp. Ed. Ass’n, P.E.R.C. No. 2014-30, 40 NJPER 253 (96 2013), aff’d 42 NJPER 69 (17 App. Div. 2015), which was subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court at 227 N.J. 192 (2016).  The Commission found that the Board did not show that it faced serious and pressing economic considerations or that it reduced the work year of the secretary to ensure the fiscal stability of the school district.

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Commission Reaffirms Union’s Right to Arbitrate On Behalf of Retirees

West Orange Board of Education and West Orange Education Association

In P.E.R.C. No. 2016-87, the Commission denied the request of the Board for a restraint of binding arbitration of a grievance contesting the unilateral termination of retiree-paid health insurance benefits for current retirees.  The Commission rejected the Board’s arguments that education statutes prohibited the continued benefits.

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Commission Applies Teaching Staff Increment Test To Non-teaching Staff Member

Clifton Board of Education and Clifton Custodial Association

In P.E.R.C. No. 2016-82, the Commission denied the employer’s request for a restraint of binding arbitration after applying the evaluation/discipline test developed to determine whether a teaching staff member’s increment withholding could go to arbitration or had to be reviewed by the Commissioner of Education.  That test does not apply to increment withholdings of non-teaching staff members because the parties could have lawfully agreed to arbitrate all increment withholdings of non-teaching staff members.  The Commission cited, but did not follow, Flemington-Raritan Bd. of Ed., P.E.R.C. No. 2003-64, 29 NJPER 113 (34 2003) and Atlantic City Bd. of Ed., P.E.R.C. No. 2003-72 29 NJPER 180 (53 2003).

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Commission Permits Arbitration Over Denial of Extra Duty Work

City of Elizabeth and PBA Local No. 4

In P.E.R.C. No. 2016-78, the Commission denied a request for a restraint of binding arbitration of a grievance contesting the denial of extra duty work permits for certain police officers due to alleged excessive absenteeism.  The Commission found that the City failed to show, or even allege, that the attendance records of the affected officers were such that they were unqualified to perform extra duty work.

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Commission Dismisses Complaint Challenging City’s Order That Fire Captains Submit Reports About Alleged Threats at Union Meetings

City of Hoboken and International Association of Firefighters Local 1076

In P.E.R.C. No. 2016-79, the Commission dismissed a Complaint alleging that the City violated the Act by directing fire captains to submit reports indicating whether they heard anyone physically threaten another captain during union meetings.  The Commission found that the City had a legal obligation to investigate a complaint and that a nexus existed between the alleged misconduct and the workplace given the paramilitary structure of the fire department.

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Commission Limits Right of Teacher to Arbitrate a Reprimand

Elizabeth Board of Education and Elizabeth Education Association

In P.E.R.C. No. 2016-74,  the Commission found that the content of a memorandum placed in a teacher’s personnel file that criticized the teacher for an allegedly inappropriate conversation with a parent and threatened further action should the pattern continue, could not be challenged in arbitration, but that the portion of the memorandum that directed that the teacher speak to parents only in the presence of an administrator could be challenged in arbitration.  Since at least 1986, the Commission had distinguished between benign forms of constructive criticism that could not be challenged in arbitration, and disciplinary reprimands that could be challenged in arbitration.

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Filed under 2016