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No Duty to Comply With “Prohibited Subjects” in Expired CBA
MERC recently rejected an unfair labor practice (“ULP”) charge alleging that the Pontiac School District violated a collective bargaining agreement by requiring teachers to collect student questionnaires and involuntarily transferring a teacher. Pontiac Sch Dist, MERC Case No. C12 D-070 (March, 17, 2014).
After the collective bargaining agreement expired, the district required its teachers to participate in a student questionnaire program. The district stated that it would not use the questionnaires for evaluation purposes but would use the questionnaires to obtain student opinions about teacher performance. The collection of questionnaires was a new requirement for teachers.
Simultaneously, the district involuntarily transferred a middle school teacher who had engaged in misconduct to the high school. The transfer was not authorized by the expired collective bargaining agreement.
The association filed a ULP charge, alleging that the district’s actions were unilateral changes in working conditions and a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. The association argued that PERA required the parties to maintain the status quo at the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, including those portions that might be deemed “prohibited” in a future successor bargaining agreement.
MERC rejected the association’s argument and held that the district had no duty to maintain the status quo of prohibited portions of the expired collective bargaining agreement. MERC noted that, upon the contract’s expiration, those prohibited portions became void and the district was under no obligation to comply with them. MERC held that the student questionnaires and the teacher’s placement were prohibited subjects and, therefore, the district did not need to comply with these provisions of the expired collective bargaining agreement.
School officials are reminded that there is no duty to bargain over prohibited bargaining subjects, such as teacher placement, evaluation, and discipline. As collective bargaining agreements expire for many school districts within the next few months, school officials should review those agreements and eliminate all prohibited bargaining subjects from the agreements. Districts should respond to any attempt by a union to bargain over a prohibited subject by clearly indicating in writing that the district refuses to bargain over prohibited subjects of bargaining.