In a recent decision, the Public Employment Relations Commission (“PERC”) overturned decades of precedent in concluding that a public employer was not required to pay automatic increments to officers upon the expiration of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. As you can expect, the decision, County of Atlantic and PBA Local 243, FOP Lodge 34 and PBA Local 77, P.E.R.C. No. 2014-040 (issued December 19, 2013), has enormous implications for all public safety officers and/or collective bargaining units going forward.
For over thirty (30) years, PERC consistently required public employers to pay automatic salary increments upon the expiration of collective bargaining agreements. However, in the County of Atlantic ruling, PERC supports its departure from this long-standing precedent by indicating that the payment of automatic increments serves as a “disincentive to the prime settlement of labor disputes and disserves rather than promotes the prompt resolution of labor disputes.”
PERC’s ruling in the County of Atlantic case serves as yet another example of the dramatic shift in the collective bargaining landscape that has taken place in recent years. Going forward, many public collective bargaining units will be unable to rely upon the past practice of an employer paying automatic salary increments upon the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement before a new agreement is reached. Therefore, public employers are being armed with yet another tool during the collective bargaining process. As such, it will become imperative in future contract negotiations to ensure wording expressly providing the payment of automatic salary increments upon an agreement’s expiration is included in any successor collective bargaining agreement.
An appeal of the decision is currently pending. Please check this blog periodically to ascertain any updates regarding this decision as the same become available.