This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994). STATE OF MINNESOTA IN COURT OF APPEALS C2-96-418 International Association of Fire Fighters Local 82, Minneapolis, Appellant, vs. City of Minneapolis, et al., Respondents. Filed August 13, 1996 Affirmed Willis, Judge Hennepin County District Court File No. 955645 Marshall H. Tanick, Phillip J. Trobaugh, Mansfield & Tanick, P.A., 1560 International Centre, 900 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for Appellant) Surell Brady, Minneapolis City Attorney, Peter W. Ginder, Assistant City Attorney, 300 Metropolitan Centre, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for Respondents) Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.* U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N WILLIS, Judge Appellant labor union challenges the district court's order denying its motion to enjoin respondent city fire department from enforcing a policy allowing only union chair officers to take paid time off for union activities. We affirm. FACTS Appellant International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 82 (the union), and respondent City of Minneapolis (the City) entered into a labor agreement, which provides that grievance and arbitration procedures are the sole and exclusive means of resolving all grievances "concerning, and limited to, the interpretation or application of the provisions of the Agreement." The union and the City also signed a letter of agreement that modified the labor agreement. The letter of agreement contained the following provision pertaining to time off for union business: The Employer and the Union shall jointly review and revise that certain policy of the Department which provides for paid time off for Union business. Efforts shall be made by both Parties to reduce the need for such time off. In no event shall such time off (cumulative for the chair officers of the Union only) exceed three thousand six hundred (3,600) hours per calendar year. The revised policy shall include provisions which address requirements for reasonable advance notice and accountability. The City previously allowed union members to take a "reasonable" amount of time off to engage in union activities. Without meeting with the union to review and revise the time-off policy pursuant to the letter of agreement, respondent fire chief Thomas Dickinson implemented a revised policy that (1) required the union to request approval 48 hours in advance of the requested time off, (2) restricted paid time off to six hours per meeting, per individual, (3) restricted to three the number of union officers permitted to take time off to attend contract negotiation sessions, (4) restricted to three the number of union officers permitted to take time off to attend disciplinary hearings and grievance proceedings, and (5) permitted a request for time off to be made orally, rather than in writing, in emergency situations. The union sued the City and Dickinson, claiming they engaged in an unfair labor practice under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 179A.01-.30 (1994), by changing the fire department's union time-off policy without negotiating the changes. The district court enjoined respondents from enforcing the revised policy issued by Dickinson. After the district court's decision, Dickinson continued to deny requests from rank and file union members for paid time off for union activities. The union filed a motion in district court to enjoin respondents from denying paid time off to rank and file union members, arguing that respondents had engaged in an unfair labor practice by failing to meet and negotiate before "eliminating" paid time off. Respondents argued that the letter of agreement requires paid time off only for the union chair officers. The district court denied the union's motion, concluding that determination of the issues raised by the motion required interpretation of the language of the letter of agreement; therefore, they must be resolved not by the court, but by arbitration as required by the labor agreement. D E C I S I O N The supreme court has held that [t]he issue of arbitrability is to be determined by ascertaining the intention of the parties through examination of the language of the arbitration agreement. A reviewing court is not bound by the trial court's interpretation of the arbitration agreement and independently determines whether the trial court correctly interpreted the clause. Michael-Curry Cos. v. Knutson Shareholders Liquidating Trust, 449 N.W.2d 139, 141 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted). Rather than reaching the merits of the union's motion for a temporary injunction, the district court decided that the dispute was subject to arbitration. Because the district court's order depended on its interpretation of the arbitration clause in the parties' labor agreement, this court need not defer to the district court's conclusion. Minnesota has a "strong public policy" favoring resolution of labor disputes through arbitration. Ellerbrock v. Board of Educ., 269 N.W.2d 858, 862 (Minn. 1978). The "`underlying policy and purpose' of [the Public Employment Labor Relations Act] is to discourage litigation and promote simple, informal procedures for resolution of conflict." Minnesota Educ. Ass'n v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 495, 290 N.W.2d 627, 629 (Minn. 1980). The failure to arbitrate precludes access to Minnesota courts except where an "employer and union conspire together to defeat the rights of an employee or * * * it would be futile for the employee to seek redress under the contract." Ellerbrock, 269 N.W.2d at 862 (quoting Cunningham v. Federal Cartridge Corp., 265 Minn. 534, 537, 122 N.W.2d 208, 211 (1963)). If an arbitration provision shows that the parties clearly intended to arbitrate a controversy "arising out of specific provisions of the contract, `the matter is for the arbitrators to determine and not the court.'" Minnesota Educ. Ass'n, 290 N.W.2d at 629 (quoting Atcas v. Credit Clearing Corp., 292 Minn. 334, 341, 197 N.W.2d 448, 452 (1972)). Additionally, where the arbitrability of a dispute is subject to "reasonable debate," the arbitrator himself is to make a determination on the question of arbitrability "in the first instance." Id. Section 5.1(A) of the labor agreement in this case provides: This grievance and arbitration procedure has been established to resolve specific disputes which may arise between the Parties concerning, and limited to, the interpretation or application of the provisions of this Agreement. (Emphasis added.) Section 5.1(E) of the agreement provides: The City and the Union mutually agree that the grievance and arbitration procedures contained in this Agreement are the sole and exclusive means of resolving all grievances arising under this Agreement. The district court held that the following provision is susceptible to more than one interpretation: The Employer and the Union shall jointly review and revise that certain policy of the Department which provides for paid time off for Union business. Efforts shall be made by both Parties to reduce the need for such time off. In no event shall such time off (cumulative for the chair officers of the Union only) exceed three thousand six hundred (3,600) hours per calendar year. The revised policy shall include provisions which address requirements for reasonable advance notice and accountability. Respondents assert that the language in parentheses, "cumulative for the chair officers of the Union only," requires the city to pay only the chair officers for time off for union activities. The union argues, on the other hand, that the letter of agreement restricts the number of hours available to chair officers of the union for paid time off, without in any way changing the preexisting practice of allowing rank and file members to take paid time off for union activities. We hold that the district court correctly concluded that the provision is susceptible to more than one interpretation. The union argues that the dispute does not center on the interpretation of the letter of agreement provision, but rather on whether respondents engaged in an unfair labor practice under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 179A.01-.30 (1994). The union asserts that respondents engaged in an unfair labor practice by changing the policy regarding union time off for rank and file union members without first negotiating with the union. See Minn. Stat. § 179A.07, subd. 2(a) ("A public employer has an obligation to meet and negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative of public employees * * * regarding * * * the terms and conditions of employment."); § 179A.13, subd. 2(5) ("Public employers, their agents and representatives are prohibited from * * * refusing to meet and negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative of it employees."). As a threshold matter, however, the union's PELRA claim depends on interpretation of the provision from the letter of agreement. If the provision is interpreted as respondents urge--to require paid time off for the union chair officers only--no unfair labor practice could exist because the parties met and negotiated the terms of the letter of agreement. If, conversely, the provision is interpreted as the union urges--to apply to all union members--the union's PELRA claim may be valid. Because the labor agreement requires arbitration of all disputes regarding interpretation of the provisions of the agreement and this dispute centers on interpretation of a provision of the parties' letter of agreement, the district court correctly held that the dispute must be arbitrated. The union argues that the supreme court has ruled that an arbitration clause in a labor agreement does not preempt the right to bring a civil unfair labor practice action under PELRA. In support of its argument, the union cites American Fed'n of State, County and Mun. Employees Local 66 v. St. Louis County Bd.of Comm'rs, 281 N.W.2d 166 (Minn. 1979). Local 66, however, does not support the union's argument. In Local 66, the court did not decide whether the district court could consider plaintiffs' PELRA claim despite the existence of an arbitration clause, as the union asserts. Rather, the court held that because a dispute regarding the identity of the plaintiffs' exclusive representative did not involve the interpretation or application of any specific provision of the parties' labor agreement, the courts, not an arbitrator, must decide the dispute. Id. at 169. The union asks this court to consider the merits of its PELRA unfair labor practice claim and to grant relief. Because the district court held that the PELRA claim was subject to arbitration, the court did not reach the merits of the claim and this court need not address it. See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) ("A reviewing court must generally consider `only those issues that the record shows were * * * considered by the trial court in deciding the matter before it.'"). Affirmed. * Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.