Administers the Collective Bargaining Act for Public Employees. This is done by the Board of Personnel Appeals (BOPA) with staff of the Dispute Resolution Section and the Hearings Bureau of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry serving as agents of the Board. The Collective Bargaining Act provides for and protects the rights of employees in self-organization and provides for bargaining duties and rights on the part of the employee organizations and public employers. The Montana Act closely parallels federal law, the result of which is the Board and its agents providing similar services on the state level that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) provide on the federal level. Rules for the Board of the Personnel Appeals can be found here. The Collective Bargaining Unit directly provides the following services to the public sector:
Filed by a labor organization or group of employees requesting representation in collective bargaining matters – petition is accompanied by a 30 percent showing of interest and, unless a question arises as to the appropriateness of the unit, proceeds to an election and certification of bargaining representative or no representative. Questions on unit composition and bargaining unit appropriateness are referred to agency hearing examiners. Proof of interest shall not be furnished to any of the parties and the adequacy of showing of interest is decided by the Board and is not subject to challenge. The standards for determining an appropriate bargaining unit are community of interest, common supervision, common personnel policies and the extent of integration of work functions and interchange among employees affected, and the desires of the employees. Forms for filing unit determinations are found on the internet here.
Filed by a bargaining representative or the public employer when a question exists as to the composition of the unit. Petitions may not be filed if the parties are engaged in negotiations or within 120 days of contract expiration. Unit clarification forms are found here.
Filed by an employee or by a labor organization seeking removal of an existing bargaining representative or takeover of a new bargaining representative. Decertification petitions may be filed only at contract expiration or during a 30 day window period that starts on the 90th day and ends on the 60th day prior to the termination date of the contract. In the case of school districts, units of the Montana university system and community colleges, petitions may be filed only on contract expiration or January of the year in which the contract is scheduled to terminate. Decertification petitions must be accompanied by a 30 percent proof of interest. Find forms for decertification here.
Filed by an employer alleging that one or more labor organizations has presented a claim to be recognized as the exclusive representative in an appropriate unit. In the case where there is an existing certified representative, the employer must provide facts to prove this representative does not have majority support.
Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Charge (24.26.680 ARM):
A complaint filed by an employee, group of employees, labor organization or public employer alleging an unfair labor practice by:
- public employer (39-31-401 (1) through (5) MCA): interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in self–organization rights; dominate, interfere or assist in the formation or administration of any labor organization; discriminate in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization; discharge or otherwise discriminate against an employee for filing a petition/complaint or testimony; and refusal to bargain collectively in good faith with an exclusive representative.
- labor organization (39–31–402 (1) through (3) MCA): restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of the self-organization rights or the rights of a public employer in the selection of their representative for the purpose of collective bargaining or adjustment of grievances; refusal to bargain collectively in good faith; use agency shop fees (dues) for contributions to political candidates.
A Summons is served on the defendant and timelines set for an answer to be filed. Then an investigation is conducted – the charge is either dismissed or a finding of probable merit is issued to the parties and the matter is transferred to schedule a hearing. Forms for filing unfair labor practice charges are found here.
Interest–Based Bargaining & Interest–Based Problem Solving Training:
The interest–based approach emphasizes communication skills, sharing information, examination of interests rather than positions, applying standards to those options and arriving at a mutual gains solution by consensus. This collaborative process allows the parties to arrive at higher quality technical solutions based on deep understanding of the interests of both parties. Interest based solutions help to build trust between the parties and enhance the on–going labor/management relationship. Forms to file for assistance are found here. Power Point and Word examples of these training programs may be viewed here.
Labor-Management Committee Training:
Management and labor looking for alternate ways to improve communication and problem solving have formed Labor Management Committees. These committees will focus on issues or problems that are not typically covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Participants in the training will learn how to set up their committees, build communication skills and trust, and develop a problem solving process. The Labor Management Committee provides a good forum to discuss and resolve issues prior to grievances or negotiations.
Filed by a labor organization or public employer requesting the assistance of a mediator in resolving a dispute arising from contract negotiations. Forms for assistance are found here.
Grievance Mediation (24.26.695A):
Similar to the above, only to assist the parties in resolving disputes arising from contract provisions. This is a voluntary effort by the parties, or may be contained in the collective bargaining agreement, in order to resolve the conflict before proceeding to binding arbitration. Forms for assistance are found here.
Parties using the Interest-Based Bargaining approach can request assistance of a mediator to assess the dynamics of the bargaining teams and re-focus the team's efforts toward those steps in the problem solving process that are causing difficulty in reaching consensus.
Filed by an employee or group of employees, a labor organization or public employer requesting the assistance of an impartial (neutral) to act as mediator in resolving a labor dispute.
May be filed by either party to a dispute (labor organization or public employer) – matters in disagreement may be more readily settled if the facts involved are determined and publicly known. Upon request a list of five to seven fact finders is jointly sent to the parties, the parties each strike alternate names and the remaining name is designated fact finder. The fact finder is appointed and immediately contacts the parties to set a date of hearing. Upon completion of the hearing, the fact finder is required to furnish the Board a copy of the award. This award is made public 5 days after it is submitted to the parties. The decision is not binding. Assistance forms are found here.
Allows agreement by the parties to submit any or all issues to final and binding arbitration. The parties may ask for any configuration of their choice, e.g. all members of the National Academy of Arbitrators, all from Montana, all from the Pacific Northwest, etc. If not specific, the Board will appoint a roster of 5 with two from Montana, two from the National Academy and one at large member. Names are sent to the parties via email with a link to the website where biographical sketches can be viewed. No hard copies are sent out. There is no requirement that the parties or the arbitrator notify the Board of selection. The administrative rule does provide that the Board is to be supplied with a copy of the arbitration award when issued. Forms to file a request for this assistance are found here.
Wage and Classification Appeals (24.26.501 ARM):
Appeals filed by employees (or group of employees) who are covered by the state employee classification and pay plan are accepted at step 3. If proper criteria are met, the matter is transferred to schedule for a hearing. The decision is appealable to the full Board. Forms for a classification or wage appeal are found here.
Transportation & Fish, Wildlife & Parks Grievances (24.26.301 & 24.26.401 ARM):
Provides employees of these two state departments an orderly and uniform method to file and process personnel grievances. Other departmental grievances are handled according to the Montana Operations Manual (MOM). Upon filing, an investigation is conducted and a preliminary decision is issued. This preliminary decision is appealable to hearings and that decision is appealable to the full Board. Forms to file a grievance are found here.
Training of Fact Finders/Arbitrators:
Mandated by statute to provide a course of education for the training of fact finders and arbitrators. This is accomplished in conjunction with the Montana Arbitration Association by means of our annual conference and also ensured by the selection process allowing submission of names to our list. Details for the annual conference can be found here.
A public employee requesting nonassociation with a labor organization because of religious beliefs may request dues or the amount in lieu of dues be paid to a nonreligious nonunion charity designated by the labor organization. Upon receipt of such religious exemption, a committee of three consisting of a clergyman not associated with the sect in question and a labor union official and member if the public at large be appointed - the decision shall be made in writing as to whether the employee qualifies for the right of nonassociation with such labor organization.