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Appeals Court Sends Edison Firefighter Compensation Case Back to Arbitrator

Court Affirmed PERC Ruling That Town and Union Must Continue Arbitration in Dispute Over Firefighters Who Are Also EMT's
jhalpin.com

UPDATE:An arbitrator has decided to side with the Edison Fire Department in that they should receive pay compensation, but Edison Township is now challenging this arbitral award.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--After almost 4 years of legal arguments between the Edison Fire Department and Edison Township over pay compensation, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that an arbitrator will most likely make the final call.

The conflict began in January 2011 when Edison Township decided to remove from service an ambulance which was used by the Edison Fire Department.

The change effectively eliminated a rotation of firefighters who were also trained as emergency medical technicians (EMT's), and received pay enhancements for their additional duties.

In the rotation, 36 firefighter/EMT's were selected to receive a pay enhancement based on seniority.

The 36 consisted of two groups, firefighters who had been trained as an EMT-D, and firefighters denominated as Senior EMT's, who have had at least 5 years of experience as a firefighter and 5 years of experience as an EMT.

The EMT-Ds were entitled to a 6% pay enhancement and the senior EMT's a 7% enhancement.

The policy was put in place so that firefighters who also performed first responder medical services would be compensated for doing so.

On January 15, 2011, Edison Township eliminated the rotation of firefighter/EMT's and began hiring civilian EMT's which they claimed would replace the services provided by the firefighters.

The ambulance assigned to the fire division was transferred to the civilian EMT's.

Although the rotation was eliminated, the firefighter/EMT's continued to respond to emergencies as first responders even when fire suppression activities were not involved.

Not long after the township’s decision to eliminate the rotation, firefighter Wayne Enoch filed a grievance, which the Township denied.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 1197 requested arbitration, in which an impartial adjudicator would resolve the dispute.

One arbitration session was held, and another was scheduled, but before it could occur, Edison filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) seeking to stop the arbitration.

In June 2013, PERC decided that the arbitration would proceed.

PERC decided that the decision to transfer or reassign public employees is a policy determination, but the compensation claim arising out of that policy change was arbitrable.

So it was decided that an arbitrator would make the final decision on whether the firefighter/EMTs would receive a pay differential for the emergency medical services they are providing.

After this decision Edison Township appealed to the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division to prevent the arbitration, but on December 23 the court upheld PERC’s decision and ruled that arbitration should continue.