LANSING, Mich., Feb. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan's 40-year-old law designed to protect public safety by keeping police officers and firefighters on the job is working as intended, striking a fair balance between the rights of public safety employees and the needs of municipalities to be good stewards of the taxpayers' resources.
"Binding arbitration keeps cops on the streets and that helps keep our communities safer," said John Buczek, executive director of the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police. "It provides a fair process for all sides to follow so that we can work through our differences without letting negotiations get in the way of doing our jobs. PA 312 is good public policy. It works."
Recent legislation introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would eliminate binding arbitration and return police and firefighter negotiations back to the 1960s when collective bargaining impasses and strikes put public safety at risk.
Added Mark Docherty, president of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union: "Over the course of 40 years, PA 312 has worked to keep contract disagreements in the background, allowing us to focus clearly on what matters most to Michigan citizens – making public safety the number-one priority."
PA 312, known as the Michigan Policemen's and Firemen's Compulsory Arbitration Act, was signed into law in 1969 after several work stoppages by police officers and firefighters threatened public safety. The law is the result of nearly four years of study by a commission appointed by then-Gov. George Romney and was designed to maintain services by settling labor disputes between public safety employees and municipalities through an impartial arbitration panel.
Most labor negotiations between public safety employees and municipalities are settled without the need for binding arbitration. But for the few cases each year where there is an impasse, PA 312 offers a fair and transparent process for all parties to present their last, best offers to an impartial arbitration panel. In such cases, the panel holds a hearing, considers the facts presented – including the municipality's ability to pay as prescribed by the law – and then decides which side's final offers to accept.
Buczek and Docherty said recent efforts to eliminate PA 312 gloss over the facts about the law, especially with regard to healthcare and benefit costs communities pay. A study of PA 312 found that when arbitration was sought, municipalities won – or had their final best offer selected – nearly six out of every 10 issues brought between 1998 and 2008.
"We welcome a frank and open discussion about the merits of PA 312," Buczek and Docherty said. "We think that when all the facts are examined, the simple conclusion will be that binding arbitration provides taxpayers with an exceptional value and peace of mind."
SOURCE Michigan Fraternal Order of Police/Michigan Professional Firefighters Union via Duffey Petrosky