On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Camden County.
Bischoff, King and Polow. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, J.A.D.
[183 NJSuper Page 208] This public sector labor dispute has touched many bases -- the grievance procedure, a scope of negotiations petition before PERC, a scheduled arbitration, a Chancery Division hearing, a transfer to the Commissioner of Education and now this appeal.
On September 25, 1979 the Camden Vocational Teachers Association (Association) filed two grievances against the Board of Education of the Camden County Vocational School (Board). Grievance No. 3-79 complained of loss of one period of daily preparation time for so-called "related" teachers, those who teach the theory which students must learn in preparation for shop classes. Grievance No. 4-79 complained of the assignment of teachers to the additional duty of in-school suspension and to lavatory checks. Both grievances alleged violation of the extant negotiated agreement between the Board and the Association. The Board denied the validity of the grievances. On December 26, 1979 the Association, pursuant to Article XII(c)(6) of the agreement, filed a demand for arbitration.
On February 12, 1980 the Board filed a petition for a scope of negotiations determination with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). N.J.S.A. 34:13A-5.4(d), which states:
d. The commission shall at all times have the power and duty, upon the request of any public employer or majority representative, to make a determination as to whether a matter in dispute is within the scope of collective negotiations. The commission shall serve the parties with its findings of fact and conclusions of law. Any determination made by the commission pursuant to this subsection may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
In the "Petition for Scope of Negotiations Determination" the Board made this claim:
The Association has demanded that the Board of Education submit to binding arbitration on the issue of whether the Board of Education may, without prior negotiations, remove one preparation period per day from the teachers and assign them an additional class or non-teaching duty in lieu thereof. It is the position of the Board of Education that the elimination of the preparation period and the reassignment of a class or other non-teaching duty in lieu of the preparation period was necessitated by a reduction in force which took place in the district. The reduction in teaching staff personnel required the remaining teaching personnel to pick up the classroom assignments and non-teaching duties normally performed by the staff members who were reduced. The reduction in force being a managerial prerogative and a major educational policy decision, it was non-negotiable and therefore, the impact of that decision on the remaining teaching staff members was also non-negotiable and therefore non-arbitrable.
No factual hearing on the scope petition was held but briefs were submitted. Thus, the available facts are skeletal. On June 30, 1980 PERC issued its decision and order, No. 80-162.
PERC viewed the grievances as involving three separate incidents, "all of which the association alleges relate to Article IV(B)(1) of the parties' collective agreement which provides as follows:
Academic subject teachers shall have two (2) preparation periods per day. Every effort shall be made to grant related subject teachers two (2) preparation periods per day."
The first incident related to the elimination of one of the two daily preparation periods for the 1979-1980 year. For economic reasons the Board had reduced the teaching force by 13 members, effective June 30, 1979. Allegedly as a consequence of this reduction in force (RIF) for the 1979-1980 school year, the Board, in an effort to keep from increasing class size, had decided to reduce the number of daily preparation periods and increase the number of teaching periods by one. The second incident related to the Board's decision to assign certain teachers to supervise in-school suspensions. These teachers apparently then lost a preparation period. The Association sought additional compensation or elimination of these duties. The third incident related to a Board directive that during their preparation period teachers perform "lavatory duty" each day. This meant stepping into the student lavatories next to the faculty lounge to insure that no untoward ...