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Essential 2017 Contract Negotiation - Steps You Should Be Taking Now

As published in the Pennsylvania Insider Newsletter, March 2017

Published on: Wed 29th Mar, 2017 By: Patrick Harvey

Your preparation for 2017 contract negotiations should begin now with the below listed essential steps. These steps apply to all contract negotiations and will lead to the achievement of your bargaining goals. For unions that have the ability to request contract interest arbitration (police, fire, etc.) completion of these steps will prepare your municipality for any arbitration.

Step 1: Have experienced labor counsel review the contract that is expiring along with the pension plan and pension ordinance. Labor counsel should first identify any illegal contractual provisions or pension benefits that should be eliminated such as minimum shift manning or pension benefits in excess of pension laws. Counsel should next identify contractual language that should be modified to restore management rights and control costs. Labor counsel should draft recommended contract proposals.

Step 2. Have your manager and the supervisor of this particular unit (eg. public works director, police chief, etc..) review the expiring contract to identify problematic contractual provisions that impair efficient operations and drive up costs. Your manager and the unit’s supervisor should draft recommended contract proposals.

Step 3. Review your health benefits and shop those benefits around for cost savings. Examine plan design changes and possible new health plans. Review increases in deductibles, co-pays and contributions. Identify how you want to change health benefits and gather cost figures to show the union why these changes are necessary. Be cognizant of the 2020 Cadillac tax health benefit cost thresholds.

Step 4. Review finances and be prepared to present financial data to the union as to why costs have to be controlled in order to keep public services sustainable. Be prepared to show the union escalating pension MMO’s, increasing healthcare costs, unfunded GASB liability, deferred infrastructure needs etc.

Step 5. Consult with labor counsel in determining your “Alamo” positions on what your final contractual goals are regarding salary, health care and pension changes and any other essential proposals.

Step 6. Identify your bargaining team. Put together a bargaining team composed of the best possible negotiators. Identify bargaining team members who have the optimal experience, skills and relationships with the union to achieve your bargaining goals.

Step 7. Be aware of the legal deadlines for Act 195 and Act 111 units for bargaining and if applicable contract arbitration. Be particularly careful in not missing the Act 111 deadlines for responding to union arbitration demands and preserving your issues. Consult with labor counsel on compliance with all legal deadlines, how to appropriately preserve your issues and how to object if the union misses its statutory deadlines.

Step 8. Consult with labor counsel on bargaining strategy and how to effectively implement this strategy throughout bargaining and, if applicable and necessary, Act 111 arbitration.

Campbell Durrant attorneys have advised municipalities in bargaining and acted as Act 195 and Act 111 presenters and municipal arbitrators for over forty years. We are prepared to help you implement all of these steps and achieve your bargaining goals.