On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Bergen County.
Fritz, Botter and Ard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Fritz, P.J.A.D.
[158 NJSuper Page 132] The appeal in this matter embraces two questions involving the obligation and the prerogative of the Chancery Division in labor disputes. The first of these tests whether the Chancery Division may condition an injunction against an illegal strike by imposing requirements with respect to further negotiations. The second seeks an answer as to whether the Chancery Division may in any event impose certain conditions in a labor dispute where jurisdiction
appears by virtue of an action for injunction against an illegal work stoppage. We answer the first of these inquiries in the negative and the second by qualified affirmation.
At the outset we note argument of the parties addressed to an additional question relating to a purported mootness of the appeal. This arises by virtue of an order of the Appellate Division interposed between the judgment of the Chancery Division from a portion of which the appeal has been taken and the argument of the appeal. We need not decide this question because we are satisfied that resolution of the basic issues is in the public interest irrespective of whether the situation before us is in fact moot. Busik v. Levine , 63 N.J. 351, 363-364 (1973), app. dism. 414 U.S. 1106, 94 S. Ct. 831, 38 L. Ed. 2d 733 (1973).
While the defendant Local # 42 (Local), respondent here, complains (not without some justification) of the inclusion by plaintiff appellant Township of Teaneck (township) in the statement of facts in its brief of many alleged facts which do not at all appear in the record below (see R. 2:5-4 and 5)*fn1, the facts necessary to the determination of the questions detailed above seem not to be the subject of any serious dispute. It would appear that very shortly after reference of a labor dispute between township and Local to a factfinder appointed by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), 15 firefighters of 18 scheduled to report for duty failed to report. The trial judge evidently accepted the representation of counsel for Local that this conduct "was a response on their part because of the frustrations they have experienced in negotiations with the Township concerning a contract." The township sought and obtained from the Chancery Division an order to show cause why this
work stoppage, characterized by township in its brief as an "illegal 'sick out,'" should not be enjoined. A temporary restraining order matured into an interlocutory injunction on the return date.*fn2 But the trial judge, in an oral determination, added:
I will further direct that the parties meet in negotiations face-to-face through their designated representatives, outside of any fact finder, at least twice each week for a minimum period of three hours or until they have reached an agreement. In the event that the Township fails or refuses to abide by the terms of this order, on application of the defendants the injunction will be vacated.
The township, offended by the conditions, sought leave to appeal and a stay from us. Leave was granted and the preliminary injunction was continued. But a wholesale stay was denied. Instead, we modified the conditions imposed and included in the modification the requirement that "the parties through their designated representatives shall also attend and participate in negotiations sessions with the fact finder appointed by the Public Employment Relations Commission
as scheduled until the said fact finder's report is completed and filed." We did stay "any provision of the oral order of the Chancery Division * * * inconsistent with" the modifications of our order.
On its appeal the township urges that an injunction against the concerted withholding of services by public employees must be issued unconditionally in the public interest. Further, it insists that primary jurisdiction in labor disputes of this nature has been invested in PERC and that "the trial divisions of the Superior Court lack concurrent jurisdiction over any procedural or substantive issues involved in the ...