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In re Township of Mt. Laurel

Decided: February 11, 1987.

IN THE MATTER OF TOWNSHIP OF MT. LAUREL, PETITIONER-APPELLANT, AND MT. LAUREL TOWNSHIP POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENT


On appeal from the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission.

Brody, Long and D'Annunzio. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, J.A.D.

Long

The sole question presented on this appeal is whether the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) properly determined that the work hours and work schedule proposals of the respondent Mt. Laurel Township Police Officers Association (Association) are mandatorily negotiable.

The Township of Mt. Laurel (Mt. Laurel) is a New Jersey public employer as defined by N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(c). The Association is the labor representative of the majority of Mt. Laurel's nonsupervisory police officers. N.J.S.A. 34:13A-3(e). At the time this dispute arose, there were twenty-four (24) patrol positions in the Patrol Bureau of Mt. Laurel's police department, consisting of sixteen (16) patrolmen, four (4) corporals, and four (4) sergeants. The twenty-four individuals who occupied these positions were represented by the Association. Mt. Laurel and the Association were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which was effective from January 1, 1982, through December 31, 1984. Contemplating the expiration of the agreement, they entered into negotiations on a successor contract and soon became embroiled in a dispute over the negotiability of Article X of the existing agreement which provided:

The parties understand and agree that the standard weekly work schedule for employees covered by this Agreement requires employees' services continually throughout the seven (7) day week.

In the Patrol bureau, the work week will be Five (5) days on, followed by Two (2) days off; Five (5) days on, followed by Two (2) days off; Five (5) days on,

followed by Two (2) days off; Five (5) days on followed by One (1) day off. It is agreed that the Fifteen (15) days accumulated working days will be given off for the members three (3) times a year. These days will be scheduled as to fall on the members of the day shift.

There is no dispute as to the negotiability of Article X's first paragraph; however, Mt. Laurel sought to delete the second paragraph of that provision, asserting that the scheduling of work for the police force is not subject to mandatory negotiations. In opposition, the Association sought to retain the second paragraph of Article X, with the following addition:

The normal work week shall consist of forty (40) hours of work; the normal work day shall consist of eight (8) hours of work. Tours of duty shall be 12:00 Midnight to 8:00 AM., 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. 4:00 P.M. to 12:00 Midnight.

This language would have reduced to writing the work schedule and arrangement already in effect in the Mt. Laurel Patrol Bureau since 1981.

Mt. Laurel rejected this proposal and filed this petition for a "scope of negotiations" determination on the negotiability of Article X's existing and proposed subject matter. After a hearing, PERC found three areas to be subject to mandatory negotiation: (1) the actual number of hours a patrol officer will work during a given work week and work day (8 hour day and 40 hour week proposal), (2) the work schedule or work cycle for patrol officers (5-2, 5-2, 5-2, 5-1), and (3) the maintenance of three eight-hour tours of duty and their starting and ending times. This appeal ensued. We affirm.

In New Jersey, public employees have a constitutional right to organize, to choose their representatives, and to petition their public employers for redress of grievances. N.J. Const. (1947), Art. I, par. 19; In re IFPTE Local 195 v. State, 88 N.J. 393, 401 (1982). The statutory framework embodying this constitutional right to collective negotiations is the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 34:13A-1 et seq. Under the Act, collective negotiations ...


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