Interest arbitrators’ awards covering public safety employees have started to trickle in to the WERC. Public employers have struggled to balance the “two class” system of general and public safety employees that was the by-product of Acts 10 and 32. Many public employers seek to provide the same benefits to all employees.
The first award, issued more than one year ago struck fear in the hearts of public employers throughout the state. In that case, the arbitrator categorically rejected the argument that the internal comparables justified requiring deputies to contribute to WRS under the county’s offer. This case is summarized below:
Arbitrator Karen Mawhinney selected the union’s offer and was critical of the lack of a quid pro quo for the WRS concession sought by the county.
In the following recent awards, most employers have fared better by submitting offers with modest wage increases coupled with modest WRS and health concessions.
Arbitrator Henry Hempe selected the city’s offer for several reasons:
- The union’s health insurance contribution rate of 94% exceeded the external comparables’.
- The union’s 5.9% WRS cap was a “minor windfall for the union that would serve merely to prolong the benefit disparity between the police and the general municipals without providing the police officers with a meaningful financial gain.”
- The three-year duration clause was not supported by the external comparables where only 5 of 18 (or 19) had settled for 2014.
- The city provided a quid pro quo that was “a reasonable attempt to deal with the inequity” between police officers and general employees.
Arbitrator Milo Flaten selected the county’s final offer in a very cryptic decision which did not provide a detailed rationale or analysis.
Arbitrator Raymond McAlpin selected the Union’s offer even noting the trend among external comparables to require a WRS contribution. He concluded that the use of internal comparables is “questionable in this matter at best.” The Arbitrator believed the change in the status quo was significant and the Town had failed to provide enough of a quid pro quo to justify its proposal.
The most recent batch of arbitration and fact-finding awards generally support employer efforts to require public safety employees to contribute more towards health insurance and WRS on the same basis as the internal comparable general employees provided a quid pro quo is offered. However, some arbitrators will still apply a pre-Act 10 analysis to these disputes, making it difficult for employers trying to treat all employees the same. There are about a dozen public safety awards pending.
We will continue to monitor arbitration awards and provide summaries to you. Readers are encouraged to read the entirety of each award which is available on the WERC’s website at werc.wi.gov.
For more information, please contact your Davis & Kuelthau attorney.