Monday, July 21, 2014

PERB: "Economic Exigency" Not Enough to Declare Impasse

In Selma Firefighters Association, IAFF, Local 3716 v. City of Selma, the Public Employment Relations Board ("PERB") took a hard line against employers’ citing economic exigency to declare impasse.

The City of Selma engaged in MOU negotiations with Selma Firefighters’ Association. During the bargaining process, the City abruptly ended negotiations and declared impasse. The City imposed it’s last, best, and final offer to the Selma Firefighters’ Association, claiming economic exigencies and a budget deadline warranted the impasse.

The City argued this budgeting deadline was relevant because the MOU must be agreed to prior to the next year’s budget being adopted. PERB found against the City. The Board held economic exigency did not warrant the City of Selma to declare impasse and impose its last, best, and final offer. In fact, the Board explained “it has long been noted that such economic exigency provides no justification for suspending the duty to bargain in good faith.” The Board also held an impending budget deadline did not justify the bargaining impasse. The Board ruled collective bargaining has no necessary linkage with the budgetary process.

This decision strengthens employee groups' bargaining position. The case creates a clear precedent that arguments like those utilized by the City of Selma are improper. Employers attempting to justify unilateral action based on claimed “fiscal emergencies” are not operating under an exception to their bargaining obligation. Additionally, an agreement does not need to be reached before a City’s final budget is adopted for the upcoming year.