Police and Fire Collective Bargaining (Act 111)
While the Board is explicitly authorized in both the Public Employe Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act to administer relevant sections of each of these laws, Act 111 itself does not grant any such authority to the Board. Instead, the Board's police and firefighter jurisdiction stems from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision which held that although procedures for determining the appropriateness of collective bargaining units are not in Act 111, procedures established for this purpose under the PLRA should also be applied to police and firefighter cases.
Under Act 111 and the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act, police officers and firefighters may organize in units represented by employee organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers concerning wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. One of the Board's major functions is to determine the appropriateness of these collective bargaining units, based on guidelines established in each act and in relevant case law. The Board also determines whether employees in an appropriate collective bargaining unit desire to be represented by a specific labor organization. This is principally accomplished through the conduct of secret ballot elections.
Since under the PLRA employers may recognize employee representatives without an election, the Board does not have to certify an employee organization before it may bargain. As a result, the Board only becomes involved in representation matters involving police officers and firefighters when questions are raised regarding the appropriateness of a unit or the representative status of an employee organization.
Representation cases are initiated most often by filing a petition which must be supported by a showing of interest by 30 percent of the employees in the proposed unit. When elections are held under Act 111 and the PLRA, certification of police and fire representatives requires a vote of 50 percent or more of the employees voting. If no choice receives 50 percent or a majority of the votes, a runoff election is held between the two choices that received the most votes.
Units may be certified without conducting elections if an employer does not question either the appropriateness of a unit or the majority status of a petitioning employee organization, and the employer joins with the employee organization to request that the Board certify the proposed unit.
The PLRB also enforces and protects the rights of employees to organize and to bargain collectively through investigation of charges of unfair practices and direction of remedies if such practices are found. Section 6 of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act outlines unfair practices prohibited for employers, employees or employee organizations. The unfair practice prohibitions in the PLRA are also applied to police and firefighters collective bargaining under Act 111.