August 20, 2009

It's That "Arbitration" Word

Justin Katz

Yeah, there are several distinctions that could be drawn, but it's difficult not to see this as a significant anecdote as the General Assembly plays with the idea of binding arbitration for teachers:

An arbitrator has blocked for the foreseeable future Mayor David N. Cicilline's attempt to switch the health-care benefits administrator for city employees who are represented by labor unions.

Arbitrator Girard R. Visconti declared in effect that by making the switch, Cicilline would have violated labor contracts by diluting employee health-care benefits. Cicilline had insisted repeatedly that there would have been no change in benefits.

The decision, which was distributed to the litigants Monday, is a sharp setback in the mayor's campaign to better reconcile employee costs with the city's ability to pay. Cicilline had claimed that switching from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island to United Healthcare of New England would save the city nearly $6 million over three years.

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Not to worry.

Before too long multiple Rhode Island municipalities are going to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy and let a judge rewrite the contracts.

The state / city / town officials know this, and also know that it is / will be the most politically palatable option for them (i.e., for their personal political preservation).

They just have to let things get even worse (inevitable at this point) so that they can claim that they had "no alternative" and then later blame the judge for the cram-down of union concessions.

Meanwhile (since it is unclear if a state can file bankruptcy) the Democrat General Assembly is gathering nuts for its constituencies (state workers / teachers & state pensions / welfare industry) and shifting the burden to the (municipal) entities that can file Ch. 9.

Hence the 12% increase in the state budget even as the Democrat General Assembly cut local aid.

The Democrat leadership knows that fiscal collapse is coming to government in RI. They just won't say so in public, and for their personal political purposes don't want to make the hard choices that might prevent the collapse, such as making RI's business and tax structure competitive with the Southeast.

So they're quietly setting things up in a way that'll be most advantageous for them when the collapse that they won't prevent finally occurs.

Posted by: Tom W at August 20, 2009 10:43 AM

The decission by the arbitrator also stated that if the mayor changed unions to a different provider with the same or equal benefits it would be allowed.

"Cicilline had insisted repeatedly that there would have been no change in benefits". I guess he lied again...surprise, surprise!

Posted by: Tom Kenney at August 20, 2009 5:03 PM

What's that, 0-13 for the mayor now? How long will he stubbornly flush taxpayer money down the toilet by waging war with nothing but blanks?

You'd think buy dumb luck he'd have won a few of them. Goes to show you how outlandish his contract demands have been since taking office- not even chance can overcome his absurd bargaining positions.

Posted by: EMT at August 20, 2009 11:37 PM
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