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Government Arbitration Rights Changing in Wisconsin

Wednesday, December, 28, 2011

Government employees in Wisconsin are in an uproar about the new work rules that are coming into place as union contracts expire. Government arbitration for contracts, they argue, is becoming a rigged system in favor of public administrators. Government officials argue that these changes are coming into place in order to improve government."They can handpick who the hearing officer is and they pay the hearing officer," Cupery said. "Who pays the piper picks the tune."


Changes in Grievance Procedures


Changes to the arbitration of grievances are one major bone of contention between the union workers and government officials. According to the new rules, local officials—not the arbitrating attorneys or judges—have the final say in the outcome of any dispute. These officials choose the mediators and pay the mediators.


According to Steve Cuprey, a representative of the teachers' union, "They can handpick who the hearing officer is and they pay the hearing officer; who pays the piper picks the tune." Many state employees share these sentiments in a time when their take home pay is being decreased to offset retirement and health care expenses. Additional concerns include the removal of seniority preference, work assignment restrictions, applying unused sick days to retirement payouts and overtime pay.


Moving from Contract Negotiations to Employee Rulebooks


By removing contract negotiations and replacing it with government-defined rules, the officials have created a situation where transparency rather than privacy is the rule. The application of the new rules for state employees differs greatly from district to district. Some work closely with the employees to develop a fair system of policies, while others simply develop the policies and present them “as is, take it or leave it.”


Several school board officials are not happy about the necessity of public exposure in these decisions. They would rather the discussions with employees over the handbooks be private, similar to government arbitration of contract negotiations. This handling would be illegal and would further aggravate employee relations, as many employees view this new system as a unilateral process already.