'Extreme' language in contract made fiscal responsibility nearly impossible
When Joyce Parker took over as emergency manager for the city of Ecorse in 2009, she was faced with a police union whose five-year contract had been expired for two years.
Faced with $8 million in debt, Parker wasn’t going to be able to save any money in police overtime with more efficient scheduling. That was because the contract wouldn’t allow it.
The provision of the Police Officers Association of Michigan contract read: “The City will not change the work schedule resulting in the loss of overtime.”
“I’ve never seen that in a contract,” Parker said this month. “There is language you will find in those contracts that doesn’t exist in other contracts. It’s a good example of how extreme some of the language is in some of these contracts.”
Eventually, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the city allowing them to alter schedules and reduce overtime.
The city of Ecorse paid $302,796 in police overtime in 2007-08. With one month left in fiscal 2011-12, Ecorse is on track to pay about $147,000 in police overtime, or more than 50 percent less than what was paid four years ago, said Tim McCurley, the city’s contracted controller.
Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said such restrictive language in union contracts creates a “vicious circle.”
“It is politicians who are getting money from unions or bureaucrats who want to keep unions happy,” Vernuccio said. “Before the emergency manager, there was nobody looking out for the taxpayers.”