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Somerville v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

February 3, 2015

City of Somerville & another [1]
v.
Commonwealth Employment Relations Board & others. [2]

Argued November 3, 2014

Appeal from a decision of the Division of Labor Relations.

The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

Matthew J. Buckley, Assistant City Solicitor, for the plaintiffs.

T. Jane Gabriel for the defendant.

Laurie R. Houle, Ira Fader, Colin R. Confoey, & Jason Powalisz for the interveners, submitted a brief.

Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.

OPINION

[24 N.E.3d 553] Spina, J.

At issue in this case is whether the city of Somerville (city) and the school committee of Somerville (school committee) violated G. L. c. 150E, § 10 ( a ) (5), and, derivatively, G. L. c. 150E, § 10 ( a ) (1), when the city unilaterally reduced its percentage contribution to retired employees' health insurance premiums without engaging in collective bargaining over the matter with current employees.[3] We conclude that the city and the school committee did not violate these statutory provisions. Accordingly,

Page 564

we reverse the decision of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board (board), which reached a contrary conclusion.

1. Statutory framework.

Our resolution of the present dispute is based on the interplay between G. L. c. 150E and G. L. c. 32B. General Laws c. 150E, § 2, protects the rights of public employees to self-organization and collective bargaining. Pursuant to G. L. c. 150E, § 6, " [t]he employer and the exclusive representative ... shall negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, standards [of] productivity and performance, and any other terms and conditions of employment ... ." General Laws c. 150E, § 10, states, in relevant part:

" ( a ) It shall be a prohibited practice for a public employer or its designated representative to:
" (1) Interfere, restrain, or coerce any employee in the exercise of any right guaranteed under this chapter;
" ...
" (5) Refuse to bargain collectively in good faith with the exclusive representative as required in ...

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