In early September, I asked the Boston mayoral candidates if they saw a need to reform the current arbitration process, which often sees public-safety unions holding out for arbitration in the hope of getting a richer deal than they would at the bargaining table.
John Connolly said he was comfortable with the current process. Marty Walsh rejected the notion that arbitration lessened the public-safety unions’ incentives to bargain seriously.
Since then, reality has intervened in the form of an arbitrator-awarded police-pay package that, on average, will mean a 25.4 pay increase over six years. What’s more, we’ve learned that Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 has won an arbitration award that, unless overturned in court, will raise the average T worker’s pay by more than 10 percent and could suck up as much as $88 million of the $118 million in new funding the Legislature has appropriated to make the financially shaky agency whole next year. That decision has even the union-friendly Patrick administration up in arms.
Given that both Connolly and Walsh have declared the police-pay package unaffordable, I wondered if either candidate had changed his view of arbitration.
Connolly has. “There has to be a change in arbitration. It is not working,” he told me. “I do believe it has a place, but seeing this ... award, I think we have to fix arbitration.” He adds: “I’ve also come to see very clearly that the City Council has to be a last line of review. It is a check and balance that we definitely need.”
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