The Illinois Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel recently issued a significant but relatively unnoticed declaratory ruling regarding minimum staffing for police officers.
During negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement, the Village responded to the Union’s initial proposal by proposing to remove a provision of the agreement regarding minimum staffing on the basis that it was a permissive subject of bargaining and refused to include the provision in the successor agreement. The Village also asserted during the negotiations that the issue of minimum staffing is not subject to interest arbitration. In response, the Union proposed the status quo asserting that the inclusion of the minimum staffing provision in the prior collective bargaining agreement rendered it a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Prior to an Interest Arbitration hearing in 2017, the Village unilaterally filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling seeking a determination as to whether a “minimum manning” provision in the parties’ expired collective bargaining agreement concerns a mandatory or permissive subject of bargaining within the meaning of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, 5 ILCS 315 (“the Act”), and if it is determined to be permissive, whether the subject can be excluded from interest arbitration. Indeed, Section 7 of the Act mandates parties to bargain over subjects concerning wages, hours, and other conditions of employment. However, some mandatory subjects may also involve matters of inherent managerial authority pursuant to Section 4 of the Act. In addition, Section 2 of the Act prohibits parties from insisting on bargaining to impasse over a subject for which the Act’s impasse resolution procedure provides no means of resolution, and consequently, the restrictions on what can be included in an interest arbitration decision found in Section 14(i) of the Act provide guidance as to what is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
The General Counsel agreed with the Village. In Village of Maywood v. Illinois Council of Police, Case No. S-DR-18-002, the General Counsel ruled that the plain language of Section 14(i) unequivocally prohibits an interest arbitrator from issuing a decision including “minimum manning” for law enforcement. What is more, the General Counsel also found that prior bargaining over a subject does not automatically render the issue a mandatory subject of bargaining. It is important to note that the General Counsel did make clear that Section 14(i) does provide an exception for safety concerns relating to staffing, but there is no indication that any safety concerns were raised by the parties during negotiations or in briefing the issue.
There are several important takeaways from this significant decision. First, minimum staffing for police officers is not a mandatory subject of bargaining. Second, there is an exception to the rule. Unless there is a safety issue that directly relates to minimum staffing, there is no obligation to bargain because it is a permissive subject of bargaining.
We will continue to keep you apprised of any updates regarding decisions issued by both the ILRB and interest arbitrators. Should you have any questions about this decision please contact us.