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Appeal of Town of North Hampton

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

May 7, 2014

Appeal of Town of North Hampton (New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board)

Argued: November 13, 2013.

Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

McKittrick Law Offices, of North Hampton ( J. Joseph McKittrick on the brief and orally), for the petitioner.

Molan, Milner & Krupski, PLLC, of Concord ( John S. Krupski on the brief and orally), for the respondent.

HICKS, J. DALIANIS, C.J., and CONBOY, LYNN and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 300

[166 N.H. 227] Hicks, J.

The petitioner, the Town of North Hampton (Town), appeals a decision of the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB), finding that the Town engaged in unfair labor practices in dealing with the respondent, the North Hampton Professional Fire Fighters, Local 3211, IAFF (Union). We affirm.

The following facts were found by the PELRB or are supported in the record. The Town is a public employer. See RSA 273-A:1, X (2010). The Union is certified by the PELRB as the exclusive representative, for purposes of collective bargaining and settling grievances, of a bargaining unit comprised of " [f]ull time firefighters, EMT personnel and lieutenants."

The term " [e]mergency medical technician (EMT)" is defined by administrative regulation to mean " an emergency medical care provider, specifically trained at the EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate or EMT-paramedic level of certification to administer life support care to injured and sick persons in prehospital settings, overseen and directed by physicians." N.H. Admin. Rules, Saf-C 5901.50. EMTs are licensed by the department of safety. See RSA 153-A:11 (Supp. 2013); N.H. Admin. Rules, Saf-C ch. 5903.

The parties' most recent collective bargaining agreement was for the period beginning July 1, 2010, and ending June 30, 2011 (the CBA). After the expiration of the CBA, the parties' relationship was governed by the status quo doctrine. See Appeal of Alton School Dist., 140 N.H. 303, 307, 666 A.2d 937 (1995).

The CBA contained wage scales for firefighters and lieutenants, respectively, each consisting of five steps. It provided that " [m]ovement through [the] steps is dependent on achieving certain professional certifications" as set forth therein. The

Page 301

requirements for each step included: a firefighter or company officer level; an EMT level; and, after step 1, a specified number of years. For example, the requirements for a firefighter to reach step five were listed as " Firefighter II and Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate 15 years."

During bargaining over the CBA, the Union submitted a wage proposal that provided for, among other things, a " [s]tipend for paramedic level EMT [that] will be 5% over actual step (base pay) whether hired as or a current employee has received the certification." The Town rejected the proposal and the parties put the paramedic program issue on hold. The Town remained interested in a paramedic program, however, and the Union informed the Town in June 2011 that it was willing to resume negotiations [166 N.H. 228] over the program. The Town responded that a vacancy on the selectboard was delaying the process. Nevertheless, in August 2011, the Town adopted a paramedic program that was not produced through bargaining with the Union. The program established a wage schedule and conditions of employment similar to those previously proposed by the Union and rejected by the Town.

By letter dated September 6, 2011, counsel for the Town contacted the Union's counsel regarding the new paramedic program. The letter stated that the Town had " voted to establish a paramedic program including that position's initial wages (stipend) and working conditions." It further stated that " it is most logical that this new category be included in the current Firefighter's bargaining Unit. As such the Board recognizes the right of the Union to request to bargain over the wages, hours and working ...


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