| DETROIT, April 19
DETROIT, April 19 Detroit's emergency manager
indicated for the first time that he may end collective
bargaining with city employees as part of his effort to shore up
the city's sagging finances.
Kevyn Orr, a former bankruptcy lawyer, alerted state labor
officials on Thursday that he has no legal requirement to
bargain or participate in compulsory arbitration with Detroit's
public safety unions.
The statement by Orr, sent in letters to state employment
relations officials, is his first public indication that he
actively is considering exercising some of the most sweeping
powers granted to him under the 2012 state law that created the
position of emergency manager.
Detroit has agreements with some 48 unions, and outside
analysts say the city needs concessions from organized labor if
it is to restore public finances devastated by a shrinking
population and high unemployment.
Staking out his position in the letters, Orr stated that
Detroit is in receivership, and he has no duty to bargain under
procedures set forward in the state Public Employment Relations
Act. The city and its lawyers "are authorized to advance this
position and seek...any and all relief available by law," he
Orr's move incensed unions for firefighters, police officers
and paramedics, whose current pacts with the city end on June
"It's obvious what they're trying to do: They don't plan to
negotiate with us," Dan McNamara, president of the firefighters'
unions, told Reuters.
Orr's spokesman, Bill Nowling, said the emergency manager
won't decide what to do with labor contracts until he meets with
the city's 48 unions. He described Orr's actions as a legal
"There's no declaration that we are walking away from the
negotiating table," Nowling told Reuters. "It doesn't mean we
won't meet in good faith with the unions."
Orr's letter represents a departure from his previous public
posture. When the city through Mayor Dave Bing's office sent a
similar notice in early April, Orr seemed to distance himself.
His office stated that Orr had no prior knowledge of the letter.
This time, Orr and the city are working in parallel. On the
same date that Orr sent his letters, the city of Detroit also
filed a motion with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission
asking it to rule that state arbitration panels no longer have
authority to hold hearings or rule on cases brought by the
unions representing Detroit police and emergency medical
The city also contends in its motion that a 2012 Michigan
law governing state-appointed emergency managers automatically
suspended Detroit's duty to bargain with its unions.
Detroit's unionized police, fire, and paramedics are working
under contracts imposed on them last summer by Bing, who cut
their pay by 10 percent. Employees also were required to pay 20
percent of their medical costs.
Detroit is running a $100 million annual budget deficit and
a state report said it has some $14 billion in long-term debt.
Orr, who formerly worked on the restructuring of auto company
Chrysler, was appointed last month by Michigan's Republican
Governor Rick Snyder despite objections from elected city