Communities Controlling Their Own Costs
PA 312 and Mandatory Binding Arbitration
Source: Grand Rapids Press
Costly move expanding arbitration
Sunday, June 22,
Voters should not have to cede control over their local
government's checkbook to an outside intermediary.
Legislation to expand binding arbitration to correction
officers is wrongheaded and most likely would be costly to
communities. The move would take control of spending out of
the hands of those elected to represent taxpayers. Public
Act 312, which mandates binding arbitration for public
safety officers, cries out for repeal or massive reform.
PA 312 is the 1969 law requiring binding arbitration when
police and firefighters and a government employer reach an
impasse. The dispute is decided by an arbitration panel. The
measure was pushed by former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young,
when he was a state senator. He later complained about its
destruction of sensible fiscal management.
The act was approved when the thinking was that it was
better to arbitrate than have public safety officers strike.
But it unfairly handcuffs local governments in negotiations.
Instead of trying to extend a bad practice, lawmakers need
to be working on a sensible fix that paves the way for a
reasonable, cost-conscious dispute resolution. Outside of
that, the act should be abolished.
The House bill introduced by Rep. Fred Miller, D-Mount
Clemens, would create a new act known as the Corrections
Officer Compulsory Arbitration Act, based on PA 312. It
would apply to corrections officers under the authority of a
county sheriff. The bill would provide a binding compulsory
arbitration for contract disputes. The same benefit as the
road patrol. The House Labor Committee recently approved the
bill 7 to 2. Rep. Glenn Steil, R-Cascade Township,
wiselyvoted against it. Other West Michigan legislators
should also oppose it.
The legislation comes as local governments are struggling to
meet demands for services with limited resources. Binding
arbitration usually increases government costs. There is no
compromise, the arbitration panel must choose between the
employer's final offer and the employee's.
Overextended budgets of local governments are not given
proper consideration. Groups such as the Michigan
Association of Counties are rightly concerned about
extending such legislation when the broader good of a
community doesn't receive the attention deserved.
Furthermore, binding arbitration has created lower levels of
employment for non-public safety employees. A ruling that
results in a large pay boost for safety officers can very
well mean employees in other service departments have to be
reduced. Taxpayers lose when awards are overly costly.
The multiple problems with PA 312 are well documented. A
2006 report on local government services commissioned by the
governor said the act must be reviewed to better define the
ability of local governments to pay. Another
governor-appointed panel submitted a report last year that
cited the need for the act's reform.
Basing new legislation on a flawed policy makes no sense.
The first step to improving Public Act 312 is to prevent it
from being expanded.