The last two weeks we have written about our CALMC membership meeting, and the comments of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediator George Albu regarding trends in labor relations and collective bargaining, This week, we will look at the remarks of our other speaker.
Brian Eastman is a mediator for the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB). After serving several other state agencies, Brian moved to SERB around three years ago. While with the other agencies, Brian also served on the CALMC Board of Trustees.
For those unfamiliar with SERB, it is the agency that serves a role similar to the National Labor Relations Board and the FMCS in public sector bargaining in Ohio. They resolve issues related to the conduct of labor relations, provide mediation services, and handle requests for dispute resolution in bargaining.
Brian noted one of the trends in bargaining is a decrease in the number of contracts that deal with minimum staffing levels, While this language was common in contracts with fire, police, and other services, it is written to provide much more management flexibility now if it exists at all.
In Ohio, public sector bargaining disputes can be resolved through SERB, FMCS, or by other means. For those using SERB, the first step in the process is fact finding. The recommendations of fact finders can only be rejected by a vote of at least 60% of the governing body or the bargaining unit. This is done to promote the acceptance of the recommendations. When they are rejected, employees have the right to strike unless they are safety forces, such as police and fire. For these groups, the next step is conciliation, or binding arbitration.
Brian reported last year 50% of fact finding reports were rejected, about half by labor and half by management. Around ¾ of the rejections were by safety units who knew binding arbitration awaited. He noted that 53 units had filed for conciliation in 2012, although 30 of those negotiations were settled prior to conciliation.
The average salary award in conciliation was 1.63% during the last quarter of the year. This compares to an average of 1% from successful negotiations. In fact finding, a 1.64% increase was recommended, compared to an average employer offer of 1% and an average union request of 2.5 – 3%.
Brian also noted an increasd employer push for an 85%/15% split on health coverage costs.
Most of Brian’s information was derived from statistics compiled by SERB. Their full reports are available on their web site.