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Appeal of Professional Fire Fighters of Hudson

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

October 28, 2014

Appeal of Professional Fire Fighters of Hudson, IAFF Local 3154 (New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board)

Argued June 26, 2014.

Page 1064

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1065

Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

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

Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, PA, of Portsmouth ( Mark T. Broth and Laurel A.V. McClead on the brief, and Mr. Broth orally), for the respondent.

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

OPINION

Page 1066

Conboy, J.

The petitioner, Professional Fire Fighters of Hudson, IAFF Local 3154 (Union), appeals a decision of the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) finding that the respondent, the Town of Hudson (Town), did not commit an unfair labor practice. We affirm.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from the record, the PELRB decision, or are otherwise undisputed. The Town is a public employer within the meaning of RSA 273-A:1, X (2010). The Union is the certified exclusive bargaining representative of certain members of the Town's fire department, including dispatchers, lieutenants, and firefighters. The Town and the Union have been parties to five collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) dating back to 1991. Under their most recent CBA, which covered the period of July 2006 through June 2009 (" 2006 CBA" ), the Union employees were eligible for step increases based upon their length of service, as outlined in a wage schedule appended to the agreement. The 2006 CBA did not contain an automatic renewal clause (" evergreen" clause) extending the terms of the agreement, in whole or in part, past its expiration date.

[167 N.H. 50] When each of the four earlier CBAs expired, but before the parties entered into a successor agreement, the Town provided Union members with step increases,

Page 1067

despite the absence of an evergreen clause in the expired CBA. After the 2006 CBA expired in 2009, the Town's budget, which is approved by the Town's voters, included monies sufficient to fund step increases for eligible Union members in each of the budget years 2010, 2011, and 2012. All Union members received step increases between July 2009 and August 2011. In August 2011, the Town informed the Union by letter that the Town would no longer pay wage increases, including step increases. In response to the letter, the Union filed a grievance pursuant to the procedures in the 2006 CBA. The matter ultimately proceeded to arbitration.

At the hearing before the arbitrator, the Town and the Union stipulated that the issue in dispute was:

Whether the Town of Hudson violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement or past practice between the parties when it failed to pay in accordance with the step schedule after August of 2011? If so, what shall the remedy be?

The Town argued that it had a right not to pay the step increases because the 2006 CBA did not have an evergreen clause and, under the applicable state law, a public employer is not required to pay step increases after a CBA has expired. The Union contended that the Town was required to pay the step increases because ...


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