Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Repeal PA 312 to Eliminate Binding Arbitration for Police and Firefighters?

The Detroit News is highlighting ideas from various groups to promote discussion on reform, restructuring government and the economy.

Idea 2: Eliminate binding arbitration for municipal police and fire workers.

Why: Public Act [312] is four decades old and prevents police and firefighters from going on strike by mandating that labor disputes be settled by third party, binding arbitration. Arbitrators do not take into consideration the financial status of local governmental units or their ability to pay the awards mandated by the arbitrators. Public safety costs amount to as much as half of an average city budget. Current law prevents money-saving consolidation of police and fire departments and can drive pension benefits to the point where, in some cases, retirement incomes are greater than wages when officers are still on the job.

Benefit: Economic studies estimate that removing binding arbitration could result in a 3 percent to 5 percent reduction in local government expenditures. Local governments in Michigan spent $2 billion on public safety in 2006. A 4 percent reduction would amount to annual savings of $80 million statewide. Not only would repealing Public Act 312 directly reduce costs to municipalities and help them manage their budgets, it would also provide flexibility to achieve efficient and cost-effective consolidation and collaboration among Michigan's 1,800 units of local government.

How: The state Legislature would have to repeal Public Act 312.

Obstacle: Public safety unions (such as the Michigan Association of Police, Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union and Police Officers Association of Michigan) argue PA 312 does exactly what it was intended to do and this is prevent strikes. They also contend repealing PA 312 is an attempt to solve a problem affecting a small amount of municipalities with a statewide solution.

Sources: Business Leaders for Michigan and Center for Michigan. “

My Comments: We must all be thankful for our police and firefighters who risk their lives in serving us – in protecting our lives and properties. However, that does not mean we need to approve every demand that their unions make. While proper wage and benefits must be paid our public employees, PA 312 has resulted in unsustainable levels of compensation set by arbitrators without regard to the municipalities ability to pay, sometimes simply on the bald assertion that the municipality could always raise taxes.

The Michigan Municipal League has worked for months trying to get a compromise falling far short of complete repeal of the act and yet get greater consideration for the taxpayers' perspective. That faces as much opposition and political backlash as complete repeal, so I simply favor repeal.

There should be checks and balances in every governmental action. PA 312 takes away the taxpayers’ perspective. We must push for every cost control in government that we can, in light of the scarce dollars we have to spend. Increasing taxes to pay for exorbitant wages and benefits for even our most valued public employees in the face of an economic downturn is not only politically unpalatable, but also counterproductive in encouraging job growth in Michigan.



  1. Repealing Act 312 would give police and firefighters the right to strike. How can anyone believe that at some point that would not happen. I can just see it. Your house is on fire but the firefighters are on strike so no one comes. The police are on strike so crime explodes. A much better solution is to change the law so that the economic conditino of the community must be considered by the arbitrator.

  2. I would also retain the prohibition on strikes. It sounds strange that Alex (who won't reveal his identity) would support the police and firefighters by opposing the repeal because if we don't capitulate to their demands, they will harm the public. Hmmm... If they were like that, they would not deserve ANY support. I love them individually, I just want to create a level playing field.

  3. What is to say that the cities won't tell the police and fire fighters they are taking a 4% cut in pay. Like it or leave it. If you want to change the law it needs to be fair for those who put their lives on the line everyday. Wall a mile in my shoes before you decide what you think is best for me. What about all the waste the cities spend money on. Christmas lights, new flowers in planters all over the city, etc, etc, etc. You say you want a level playing field, what about all the concessions police and fire have take to help with budgets, nothing is said about that. I could go on and on, but in the end who runs to the sound of gun fire, screams for help or runs into a burning building when infringes running out. All the thank you we received aster 9/11, you guys have a hard job, etc is gone. The public would never be delivery put in danger by police and fire but evidently police and fire, who cares if they're paid fairly for a job not many can or are willing to do. Willing to do and know that today you may not go home tonight, who's families know when they kiss their significant others they may never see them again. God bless American. God help us all.

  4. Care to reveal your identity, "Anonymous"?