Appeals court OKs PA police arbitration over hurricane pay grievance

David Yates Jun. 3, 2010, 3:24am

A year after petitioning the Ninth Court of Appeals, the Port Arthur Police Association received the green light to pursue an arbitration grievance against the city of Port Arthur in hopes of collecting inclement weather pay earned in the wake of Hurricane Rita.

After learning of the PAPA's intention to file the pay-related grievance, the city filed for an injunction. On March 2, 2009, Judge Donald Floyd granted the city's injunction request, ruling that "the subject matter sought to be arbitrated by the (PAPA) is not arbitrable."

On May 27 justices reversed and remanded Judge Floyd's ruling, citing that the association's grievance identified a specific clause which the city may have violated.

The appeals court was asked to determine whether Port Arthur should be required to provide police officers with inclement weather pay in addition to the pay the officers received for working 12 hour shifts after Hurricane Rita – and whether or not the dispute is arbitrable under the parties' collective bargaining agreement.

"Because there is an arbitrable issue, the trial court abused its discretion in enjoining all arbitration," Chief Justice Steve McKeithen opined. "We reverse the judgment and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

On appeal, PAPA argued that the city's "injunction prohibiting (them) from submitting a contract grievance" is an issue "pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement," court papers say.

"The subject of the grievance is not excluded from arbitration by the collective bargaining agreement, and therefore must be submitted to an arbitrator for arbitration," the PAPA's appellate brief states.

On the other hand, the city maintained that the association is "attempting to expand the contract and submit a matter foreign to the contract."

The PAPA filed a grievance with Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton on Oct. 3, 2008, over the city's alleged failure to pay police officers the same rate of pay provided to other city employees during and after the hurricane, court papers say.

In the grievance, the association claimed the city violated Articles 6, 7 and 8 of a collective bargaining agreement that was in effect until Sept. 30 between the association and the city.

The city and PAPA have been governed by a collective bargaining agreement since 1994.

Mitch Adams, an attorney from the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas, represents the PAPA.

The city of Port Arthur is represented by attorney Carl A. Parker

Appeals case No. 09-09-00242-CV
Trial case No. E182-994

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