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Bill changing collective bargaining process in Oklahoma passes state Senate

Senate Bill 826 would make changes to binding arbitration, which occurs when negotiations on work contracts fail between cities and police or firefighter unions in Oklahoma.
BY JOHN ESTUS Published: March 11, 2011

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would make changes to how work contract disputes are settled between cities and labor unions.

Senate Bill 826, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, passed 25-16.

The bill is one of several Republican proposals in the Legislature this year to change how public employee compensation is handled as the state and cities look to tighten budgets and address various funding shortfalls.

At issue in SB 826 is a collective bargaining process called binding arbitration that occurs when contract negotiations fail between a local government and police or firefighter labor union.

When that happens, each side's best offers are sent to a panel of three arbitrators who choose the winning offer. The city and union each choose an arbitrator. The third, deciding arbitrator is agreed on by both sides and is often a mediator from out of state.

City officials statewide have complained the process takes multimillion dollar spending decisions out of their hands and leaves them up to the out-of-state arbitrator.

Holt initially proposed eliminating binding arbitration, arguing it is unfair to cities and taxpayers. He has since worked with city and union officials to modify the process rather than eliminate it.

“I think we've reformed the process and made it a little more fair,” Holt said.

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