Contract showdown looms between Bing, unions

Jun 29, 2012

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and city union representatives appear to be headed for a showdown over contract negotiations.

The heart of this disagreement is Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

There’s language in there that allows the mayor to impose union contracts after previous contracts expire. Most city workers’ contracts expired June 1.

But in a scathing letter to Bing, union officials say it doesn’t exempt the city from bargaining with unions—something they haven’t done since the two sides reached tentative agreements in February.

Ed McNeill, with the Michigan Association of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), says as far as the unions are concerned, everything is on hold until the two sides go through mediation on the previously-bargained agreements. A hearing is scheduled for mid-July.

McNeill says the city never tried to get the tentative agreements approved.

“And the only reason they didn’t put it in place is because they had Lansing telling them ‘don’t ratify those agreements,’” McNeill said. “We have a tentative agreement, we’ve already bargained an agreement, and we have an agreement that if they put it in place, saves the city of Detroit.”

City officials acknowledged those agreements would have saved Detroit a lot of money. But state officials thought they didn’t address work rule requirements.

In the meantime, Naomi Patton, a Bing spokeswoman says the city is under no obligation to bargain with unions.

And she confirms there are plans to unilaterally impose contracts on most city workers in the near future.