DETROIT (Reuters) - The head of one of Detroit’s major unions said on Monday that union leaders will not negotiate more cost-cutting agreements with the city if elected officials agree to a so-called consent agreement financial plan with the state of Michigan.
A tough stance by union officials could make it much more difficult for city leaders trying to fix Detroit’s fiscal crisis without the intervention of a state-appointed emergency manager, who has far more legal dispensation to make unilateral changes to contracts.
Most of the city’s labor contracts expire June 30. The proposed consent agreement calls for significant changes to Detroit’s multiple labor agreements, including implementing far more uniformity among the agreements, additional outsourcing, revamped health care agreements and rewritten work rules.
Albert Garrett, president of AFSCME Council 25, told Detroit’s city council that “as long as I am president we will not be back at the table prior to the expiration date of our contract.” The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents about half of the city’s unions, and a third of the city’s employee headcount.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has drafted a financial stability agreement that would require significantly deeper concessions from city unions than have already been agreed to in an effort to save Detroit from running out of money in May. City council members are slated to vote early this week, ahead of an April 5 deadline.
Snyder’s consent agreement is aimed at allowing elected city officials to continue running the city, but with additional help. If the agreement fails to produce desired results, he could appoint an emergency financial manager.
The consent agreement has been a controversial subject in Detroit. The agreement, drafted largely by the state treasurer in discussions with city leaders, imposes strict financial controls on city operations and requires outside leaders to work with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on restructuring how the city is run.
Garrett’s comments come on the heels of a sweeping effort by Bing’s administration to forge concession agreements with the city’s 48 unions after deep financial problems came to light late last year. Those agreements, aimed at saving the city $68 million a year, were recently ratified, but were criticized by Snyder as being insufficient.
Garrett was joined by several other union leaders, including officials representing firefighters, that came to appeal to the nine-member council to reject any agreement that ignores the recently ratified agreements.
Union officials, including Garrett, said they have confidence in a public movement to limit the governor’s ability to intervene in the financial problems in many Michigan cities.
Michigan election officials are in the process of verifying signatures on petitions aimed at placing a repeal of the Public Act 4 emergency manager law on the November ballot. If the measure is certified for the state-wide ballot, the law would be suspended and a former law that gave state-appointed managers less power to make changes would take its place in the interim, according to Michigan’s attorney general. Public Act 4, which allows emergency managers to void collective bargaining agreements and replace local elected officials for the duration of the fiscal emergency, is also facing a constitutional challenge in court.
Reporting by John Stoll and Karen Pierog; Editing by Tiziana Barghini, James Dalgleish and Dan Grebler