Plaintiff Association has been voluntarily recognized by the judges of the Passaic County Court (the judges) as the exclusive negotiating representative of the probation officers*fn* employed by the County of Passaic. This recognition is embodied in the current collective negotiation agreement between the Association and the judges.
Under date of December 16, 1974 the chief probation officer of Passaic County issued a directive to take effect January 6, 1975. The subject of the directive is "Change in Office Hours," and in pertinent part it reads as follows:
This is notice that, as approved by the County Court Judges and effective Monday, January 6, 1974, the daily office hours for probation officers shall be 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., from Monday through Friday, except that one day on alternate weeks, or a variation thereof, each officer shall remain on duty for two and one half hours beyond the normal closing time of 4:30 P.M. These extended hours will be determined by the needs of the division to which the officer is assigned or the particular duties of the individual.
For at least six years prior to the issuance of the directive the "office hours" of the probation officers were from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. On October 30, 1974 the Passaic County judges held a meeting to discuss "the present normal working hours
of probation officers." At the meeting the judges passed a resolution reciting "that the normal working hours of probation officers be expanded to 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M." The reasons given for this action were threefold: (1) the December 1971 increase in court hours by one-half hour a day had enlarged the hours of other court personnel and a similar increase in the probation officers' working hours would "improve their service to the judiciary"; (2) the increase in duties and caseloads of the probation officers required an enlargement of the work day to make possible greater productivity, and (3) probation officers in Passaic County worked fewer hours than their counterparts in comparable counties.
The directive was issued without prior consultation or negotiation with the Association. The Association thereupon instituted this action to enjoin its enforcement on the ground that it constituted a change in the terms and conditions of the probation officers' employment which must be negotiated with the Association before it can be put into effect. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.3.
By way of preface it should be noted that although this matter was heard after the effective date of L. 1974, c. 123, disposition has been made under the law in existence at the time the directive was issued and the complaint filed, i.e., L. 1968, c. 303; N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.1 et seq. Neither party has urged that the recently enacted revision of Chapter 303 is applicable to this controversy.
Before examining the contentions of the parties it is necessary to refer to certain aspects of the relationship of the probation officers to the judiciary. Probation officers function as an enforcement arm of the judicial system. Godfrey v. McGann, 37 N.J. 28 (1962). In criminal matters they conduct investigations and submit presentence reports and recommendations, supervise probationary sentences and collect fines; on the civil side they likewise conduct investigations and submit reports in a variety of matters at the direction of the judges, collect and enforce support orders and supervise judgments entered by the courts. N.J.S.A.
2A:168-11, 13. In sum, they perform services for the judiciary essential to the fair and efficient administration of justice.
The Legislature has delegated to the County Court judges authority to appoint probation officers, to make necessary rules and regulations with respect to the performance of their duties, and to fix their salaries and expenses. N.J.S.A. 2A:168-5, 7 and 8. The judges are also authorized to recognize the chosen representative of the probation officers for purposes of collective negotiation under the New ...