PERB Releases 2015 Annual Report

by on November 4, 2015

posted in Employment Law,

The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has issued their annual report for 2014-15. PERB’s report details the activities of the Board during the preceding year regarding public agency labor relations work among other issues handled by the Board.

This year saw the reappointment of Board member Eric Banks, and the appointment of new Board Member Mark Gregersen.  The 74 Board Decisions issued in 2014-15 are down from 87 in 2013-14, however, moving forward into next year, the Board will be fully constituted, while it was one member short for most of 2014-15.

There were 695 new unfair practice charges filed, up slightly from the 678 filed in 2012-13 but still lower than the average of 815 each year across the past 10 years (average accounts for multiple nearly identical filings in 2004-05). Of those, MMBA filings accounted for 260 of the new cases.  PERB statistics for the prior year reveal that around 28 percent of filed cases are withdrawn following investigation and prior to any complaint being issued.  In addition to the informal resolutions, above, PERB involvement in settlement conferences yielded 189 voluntary settlements in 2014-15.

When not resolved, and a complaint issues, matters are set for hearings before Administrative Law Judges.  In 2014-15, 69 such hearings were held and 70 proposed decisions were issued (some from hearings held in the prior year(s).  While the number of proposed decisions issued is lower than the 76 in each of the two prior years, the decisions issued still exceed the number of hearings held.  This is partially reflected in the number of pending proposed decisions to be written, which has declined from 47 to 42, about a 10% reduction in backlog.  Case activity for formal hearings is expected to increase for 2015-16 as an increased number of cases (209) have been assigned in 2014-15 as compared to the 156 cases assigned in the prior year.

Representation Case activity decreased slightly to 110 new petitions.  Requests for injunctive relief decreased slightly to 19 after reaching a 5-year high last year. Of those requests 16 were either denied or withdrawn, and three were granted in part.  In one instance, PERB issued a precedential decision outlining the grounds upon which it was denying the request, stating that strike preparations by a union prior to completion of impasse processes is not sufficient reasonable cause for PERB to seek injunctive relief, where the Parties continue to negotiate and there is otherwise no evidence the union lacks a genuine intent to attempt to reach agreement. (Sweetwater Union HDS v. Sweetwater Education Association, CTA/NEA PERB Decision No. IR-58).

In 2011, AB 646 created fact-finding under the MMBA (the provisions of that Bill, taking effect in 2012).  In 2014-15 PERB received 41 requests for fact-finding and approved 34 of those (in addition to 23 fact-finding cases under EERA).  This represents fewer fact-finding requests approved over the prior year.  In addition, the State Mediation and Conciliation Service handled 70 mediation cases involving contract impasses at local government agencies during the year.  The PERB report notes that with agencies experiencing the effects of recovering economies, that the reduction in workload for CSMCS is more in line with pre-recession numbers.  I believe that this is also a contributing factor in the lower number of fact-finding requests over the course of the year as well, as these requests often follow unsuccessful mediation sessions.  CSMCS also experienced staff shortages during the year for Conciliator staff, although moves forward into next year fully staffed.  The difficulty filling the vacancies has led PERB to report that there is a declining number of interested and eligible candidates for Conciliator jobs and therefore the classification will undergo a full review.  I’m not yet convinced that enough time has passed with MMBA fact-finding in place to be able to reliably say what a “normal” year for MMBA fact-finding filings is, except to note that when passed, local agencies were just beginning to emerge from a negative economic cycle and if the economy continues to be stable or improve, the “norm” will likely become more clear.

Separate from the report itself, two important cases on MMBA factfinding are cases to watch!  Both involve PERB’s position that fact-finding applies to any dispute, even those limited to single-issue disputes that result in impasse but are not part of overall bargaining.  The pending cases are:  County of Riverside v. PERB (Case No. E060047) transferred to Division 1 of the 4th District California Court of Appeal; and San Diego housing Commission v. PERB (Case No. D066237), also in Division 1 of the 4th District.

Because of the slightly declining number of pending cases and the fully staffed department and Board, agencies awaiting decisions will likely have shortened delays in case processing in the future and decisions already pending should see those conclude more quickly than would be expected in prior recent years.

tags: Annual Report, factfinding, mmba, PERB, representation cases, unfair practices,

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