PERB appeals recent Superior Court ruling that factfinding procedure in the public sector applies only to new contracts, not single-issue disputes

Last week the Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) appealed from an injunction, or court order, that would prevent it from conducting factfinding on single-issue disputes between Unions and public employers.

On January 1, 2012 a new law governing factfinding (AB 646) went into effect.  The law allows PERB to order factfinding once a labor dispute involving employees covered by the Meyers-Millas-Brown Act (most public employees not in the fields of education or transportation) reaches impasse.   A panel selected by the parties, with a chair appointed by PERB, then makes findings of fact regarding the dispute and recommendations for a settlement—referred to as “factfinding.”  Details of the factfinding procedure can be found in Sections 3505.4 and 3505.5 of the MMBA.

In the recent case of County of Riverside v. PERB, the Riverside County Superior Court found that AB 646 does not allow PERB to order factfinding over “single-issue” disputes under an MOU, but only in disputes arising from the negotiation of a new or successor MOU.  The Court also issued an injunction that, among other things, requires PERB to dismiss all pending requests for single-issue factfinding and not to process any new requests for single-issue factfinding.   PERB appealed the ruling last week and has taken the position that the injunction is automatically stayed—or not applicable—pending a decision on the appeal.

Public employers involved in other litigation, however, have begun to argue the Riverside County case prohibits PERB from conducting any single-issue factfinding, in any case, regardless of PERB’s appeal.  Employers are also arguing that even if the injunction is stayed, the decision of the Riverside County Superior Court is persuasive authority for the position that single-issue factfinding is not permitted by AB 646.

Nonetheless, the stance taken by PERB in its appeal suggests that single-issue factfinding will continue for the time being during the appeal of the Riverside County case. 
If public employers refuse to submit to factfinding once impasse has been reached, Unions may also continue to bring unfair labor practice charges that such a refusal constitutes a failure to bargain in good faith.

For questions regarding factfinding or other issues affecting public sector employees, please contact your labor law counsel.

By Rob Szykowny | December 10, 2013

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