Staffing Proposals Not Mandatory For Bargaining

The City of Oak Park, Michigan has a public safety agency that performs both law enforcement and fire protection functions. For many years, the collective bargaining agreement between the Oak Park Public Safety Officers Association and the City contained minimum staffing provisions, including (1) a minimum number of public safety officers (PSOs) per platoon, (2) a minimum number of PSOs per shift, (3) a minimum number of PSOs in a patrol car during the night shift, and (4) a minimum number of PSOs in the operations division of the Department. The agreement also has contained provisions relating to layoff and recall that provided that once the City made the decision to lay off, non-PSOs who were performing PSO work would be laid off first and recalled last.

When negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement stalled in 2001, the Association sought binding arbitration over the terms of the successor contract. The Association proposed the continuation of the existing staffing and layoff clauses in the contract; the City proposed that all of the clauses be deleted. The City filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Association alleging that the Association was engaged in unlawful bargaining by proposing the continuation of the existing contract language.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the City’s position. The Court found that “the impact of a staffing decision on working conditions, including safety, must be proven to be significant, not merely arguably exists. The standard is whether the proposal is inextricably intertwined with the safety of the union’s member; i.e., that the staffing proposal has a genuine or significant impact on safety. There must be competent evidence that the proposal’s demonstrable and significant relationship to the safety of employees.”

The Court found that the Association failed to produce evidence that its staffing proposal was “inextricably intertwined with safety.” Rather, the Court observed, the Association appeared to be taking the position that minimum staffing proposals were per se mandatory for bargaining. The Court was not convinced, holding that “to adopt the Association’s position would be tantamount to requiring that most, if not all, minimum staffing proposals – particularly with regard to PSOs, police officers, firefighters, and others engaged in high-risk professions – be subject to mandatory bargaining. A reduction in the number of these employees could arguably have some – even minimal – impact on safety. Such a conclusion would have the effect of invading the City’s prerogative to determine the size and scope of its business, including the services it will provide. We decline to do so.”

The Court also ruled that the provisions of the no-layoff clause were not mandatory for bargaining, but for a different reason than the staffing proposal. The Court held that since members of other bargaining units, including civilian dispatchers and command officers, perform work that PSOs perform, the contract clause would have an impermissible impact on other bargaining units.

Oak Park Public Safety Officers Association v. City of Oak Park, 2207 WL 3037356 (Mich.App. 2007).

This article appears in the December 2007 issue