PERB finds employer jumped the gun on declaring impasse, orders back wages for workers with interest

PERB issued a decision against the County of Riverside finding the County unlawfully and unilaterally ceased giving step (wage) increases to over 200 County employees when the County prematurely declared impasse in contract negotiations and imposed its last, best and final offer (Decision No. 2360‑M, March 25, 2014).  The decision orders the County to make whole those employees who were unlawfully denied step increases, with seven percent (7%) interest, going back to July 30, 2009.  The matter, handled by the law firm of Weinberg Roger & Rosenfeld, is estimated to result in over a million dollars in back wages for the affected workers.

This decision is a must-read for Union negotiators who encounter employers’ arbitrary deadlines to complete negotiations, and other premature declarations of impasse.  PERB clarified that the employer is not totally “free to unilaterally implement the terms and conditions of employment to which an employee organization has tentatively agreed to pre-impasse.”  PERB will not allow an employer to selectively implement an item prior to the parties reaching a bona fide impasse, even if the employee organization has tentatively agreed to the item during the negotiations.  In other words, the parties must have reached legitimate impasse as a whole, not just on the single item, before the employer has a right to unilaterally implement any terms of its last, best and final offer.  That is especially true where the parties have exchanged package proposals in in the negotiations.

In addition to ordering the County to make the affected employees whole, the County is required to post a notice to employees “by electronic message, internet, internet site, and other electronic means customarily used by the County to communicate with its employees in the bargaining unit.”

For questions regarding the duty of all parties to bargain in good faith, or other issues affecting public sector employees, please contact your labor law counsel.

By Alan Crowley | April 8, 2014

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