Review of Court Decisions - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 38, No. 2
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
LABOR—PUBLIC SECTOR—FINAL OFFER ARBITRATION— FIREFIGHTERS—CONSTITUTIONALITY PUBLIC POLICY—NEW JERSEY
The rule promulgated by PERC allowing revisions of final offers up until the close of arbitration proceedings is constitutional and furthers the public policy of promoting labor peace in the public sector. The Newark Firemen's Benevolent Association and the City reached an impasse over negotiations for a new contract. Pursuant to N.).S.A. 34:13AA- 14 et scq., the Firemen's Association notified the Public Fmployment Relation Commission (PFRC) that it had not reached agreement within the required time period, requiring binding final offer arbitration. PFRC appointed a mertiator-arbitrator, who met with the parties several times. Certain concessions were made by both sides as a result of the mediation efforts, and formal arbitration proceedings convened with the parties much closer to agreement. In arbitration, both parties submitted final-offer packages. After the close of the girst hearing, the Firemen's Association revised its offer, pursuant to a PERC rule, N.J,A.C. 19:10-5.7, which permits the arbitrator to accept revisions up until the proceedings are concluded, provided that the other party has an opportunity to respond- The City objected to the revision, however, taking the position that the PERC rule contravenes the statutory requirement that final offers be submitted to the arbitrator prior to the proceedings. After additional hearings and several final offer revisions by the Firemen's Association, the arbitrator made an award accepting the Firemen's Association package. The Firemen's Association sought to confirm the award, but the City crossmoved to vacate, challenging the constitutionality of the fire and police arbitration statute, the validity of the PFRC rule, and further arguing that the award was unsupported by the evidence. The award was confirmed, and this judgment was affirmed on appeal. The state supreme court affirmed as well, holding that the challenged PERC rule "advances the goals of binding arbitration in the public sector, and there is every reason to grant PERC deference in its interpretation of the fire and police arbitration act." Although the court expressed dissatisfaction with the length of time necessary to resolve the dispute in question, it stated that the successful incorporation of mediation into the arbitral process "lends further support to PERC's argument that the rule has become an integral part of effective anti expeditious final offer arbitration.
' Newark Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association, Local 4 v. City of Newark, 447 A.2d ] M) (NJ. 1982),