Monday, January 30, 2012

PERB: Fire Chief Violated MMBA By Eliminating Union Time Bank

In Stanislaus Consolidated Firefighters (January 20, 2012) PERB Dec. No. 2231-M, PERB found a Fire Chief violated several sections of the MMBA when he eliminating a Union Time Bank after members filed a grievance over being denied the time off.

The Union and the Fire Department were in the middle of negotiations when the Fire Chief informed the Union he would be removing section 20-2 from the MOU. Section 20-2 allowed the union to use Department buildings for its meetings and also provided for station coverage during those meetings. The Fire Chief proposed the removal of the section after the last day for the parties to bring new proposals to the table. The Fire Chief claimed the removal of the section was not related to the regular on-going negotiations and was instead considered an operational need for the District. However, at no time during negotiations did the District present a proposal that section 20-2 be eliminated from the successor agreement.

The parties reached a tentative agreement which continued, in effect, the terms and conditions of the expired MOU, including section 20-2. Section 20-2 disappeared from the agreement after the Fire Chief reviewed and signed the agreement and presented the agreement to the Union to sign. The Union refused to sign the agreement until section 20-2 was reinserted into the agreement. The District then threatened to impose. Around the same time, union members had submitted time off requests to use the Union’s Time Bank to attend a “State of the District” address. When their requests were denied they filed a grievance on the issue. In response to the grievance being filed at step 3 the Department unilaterally decided to discontinue the Union Time Bank, which was provided for in the current MOU.

PERB decided section 20-2 presented a negotiable matter within the scope of representation and that section 20-2 was still in effect since the TA continued the terms and conditions of the expired MOU. PERB also found the District removed the section without giving the other party notice or an opportunity to bargain and that the Union had presented a prima facie case of discrimination and retaliation as well as interference. The Chief knew the requests for time off were for protected activity and unilaterally discontinued the leave bank in response to their request and subsequent filing of a grievance.