The issue in this in lieu proceeding involves the validity of a resolution adopted by the Camden County Board of Freeholders changing the titles of court attendants, ID officers and process officers, all employees of the county sheriff, to a single title of sheriff's officer.
Plaintiff Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Local #208, is a union which was in 1972 the exclusive bargaining representative of the court attendants and process officers in the employ of the Sheriff of Camden County.
On September 7, 1972 the board of freeholders adopted the resolution in question which, insofar as pertinent, reads:
Be it * * * resolved that the titles of Court Attendant, I.D. Officer, and Process Officer, be and [they] are hereby changed to Sheriff's Officer.
Plaintiff asserts that this change in classification is violative of N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 et seq. in that the employer, Camden County Board of Freeholders, did not negotiate in good faith with the employees, court attendants and process officers before changing their job titles, as required by N.J.S.A.
34:13A-5.3. Plaintiff seeks an injunction restraining defendants from carrying the resolution into effect. Defendants contend that no injunction should be granted but that plaintiff is barred from relief in the courts because it should have filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 is entitled the "New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act." Section 5.2 of the act establishes a Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.2(a). N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.2(b) provides that
This commission shall make policy and establish rules and regulations concerning employer-employee relations in public employment relating to dispute settlement, grievance procedures and administration including enforcement of statutory provisions concerning representative elections and related matters.
N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3 recognizes the right of employees to form and join any employee organization, and the right of members of these employee organizations to elect, by a majority vote, exclusive representatives for collective negotiation concerning the terms and conditions of employment. A pertinent part of section 5.3 provides that
Proposed new rules or modifications of existing rules governing working conditions shall, be negotiated with the majority representative before they are established. In addition, the majority representative and designated representatives of the public employer shall meet at reasonable times and negotiate ...