Absent an appropriate defense, an employer's unilateral change in a condition of employment involving a mandatory subject of bargaining will constitute an illegal refusal to bargain and a prohibited practice under MERA, the Municipal Employees Relations Act, Connecticut General Statutes §7-470(a)(4); however, if the contract permits the employer to make the change, no violation will be found. Bridgeport Police Union, Local 1159, Council 15, AFSCME, AFL-CIO filed a complaint alleging that the city of Bridgeport violated MERA by unilaterally allocating staff to the SET, Strategic Enforcement Team, shift. The Board of Labor Relations found that the police chief informed the union in Oct. 2010 that effective Jan. 2011, the SET shift would have 24 officers allocated to it with no supervision directly assigned to the shift. The chief moved all supervisors to an area command model based upon a geographical model versus a shift model. The union and chief met several times. The SET shift was introduced in the parties' 1988 collective bargaining agreement but, from 1994 until 2009, the city did not operate the shift.  After realizing that overtime opportunities for officers on the SET shift were diminished, the union claimed that the city unilaterally changed the staffing allocation of the SET shift, which resulted in a change in duties and an economic impact on the officers assigned to the shift. The board concluded that the city did not violate MERA by allocating 24 officers to the SET shift and moving supervisors to an area command model. The chief's decision to reallocate staff within the department was well within the management authority spelled out in the agreement. The union conceded that management retained the right to establish the number of staff but argued that the chief created a whole new shift since the officers were not performing duties regularly performed by SET shift officers. However, nothing in the management rights clause prohibited a change in responsibilities. Even if bargaining was required, the chief apparently met that obligation by meeting with the union several times before implementation to discuss the change. The complaint was dismissed.

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