OIG Releases Review of City’s Collective Bargaining Agreements

A report released today by the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General provides a comprehensive review of the City’s collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with labor unions, all of which will be negotiated in the near future.

Personnel costs constitute the overwhelming majority of the City’s operating expenses and many of the CBAs that govern both these costs and the protection of City workers are eligible for renegotiation for the first time in ten years. OIG’s report seeks to empower an important third party in contract negotiations, the people of Chicago, by describing the City’s CBAs and noting some areas that should be carefully considered for revision during ongoing and future negotiations. The report seeks to inform the public and identify potential areas for examination.

There are general characteristics of the City’s current CBAs that affect the City’s capacity to innovate and modernize operations such as inadequate reopener provisions, excessive contract durations and the formalized practice of paying the prevailing wage. OIG recommends reviewing some of the CBA terms to provide more transparency and accountability such as,

  • Removing the “side letters” or binding provisions that are outside of the four corners of the agreement would eliminate ambiguity and provide more efficient and effective contract administration and enforcement.
  • “Traditional work” provisions in many of the CBAs restrict the City from making changes to duties historically provided by union labor, which can make it difficult for City managers to adapt to practical changes and can create inefficient outcomes such as described in OIG’s extensive 2011 review of Motor Truck Driver responsibilities. OIG suggests the negotiating parties review these provisions based on a detailed, position-by-position analysis of current responsibilities.

There were a number of common elements found in multiple City CBAs that OIG highlights for potential review. For example,

  • Each CBA contains multiple provisions establishing union members’ rights when faced with potential discipline, as well as the procedural requirements for disciplinary adjudications. As a matter of principle, workplace disciplinary procedures should operate in a manner not only fair to the employees, but also sufficient to protect the employer’s, and in this case the public, interests. However, in some cases, the extent and complexity of the CBA provisions make it extremely difficult for the City to discipline employees. OIG suggests that the parties collaborate during negotiations to ensure that the disciplinary systems established by the new agreements foster community and public trust, while being both fair to the employee and providing the City with effective tools to maintain a disciplined workforce.
  • “Acting Up” provisions ensure that employees who perform work above their pay grade on a temporary basis are compensated at the higher level. Different CBAs provide different rules and time-periods for compensation, for example AFSCME holds that the employee must work four days, while other contracts give compensation after only one day. OIG’s review suggests that the parties consider whether the current time triggers are optimal from operational, fairness, and financial-feasibility perspectives.

Contract elements found in Police and Fire Department CBAs include,

  • Particular to CPD CBAs, for serving certain overtime a sworn officer may choose to receive compensatory time instead of pay. Compensatory time can accumulate throughout a member’s entire career and can be cashed in upon retirement at the member’s current wage rate, rather than their rate at the time the compensatory time was earned. This provision has created a great deal of long-term liability for the City—$259 million. OIG suggests that this particularly expensive element of the CPD contracts be seriously evaluated in the 2017 CBA negotiations.
  • The current FOP CBA provides CPD with the authority to restrict, limit or prohibit secondary employment but CPD has yielded much of its authority, relying instead on a self-enforcement approach with no reporting requirement. This creates an unnecessary liability for the City due to possible burnout and legal exposure that arguably could constitute law enforcement. CPD should consider adopting a more rigorous, secondary employment policy.
  • The Firefighter CBA specifies both the minimum number of apparatuses CFD must have and the number of Firefighters that must be on each apparatus. While it is unquestionably necessary for CFD to have a sufficient number of adequately manned apparatuses to fulfill its public safety mission, it is unclear whether the current CBA numbers meet that standard.

“The 2017 CBA negotiations constitute a generational moment for Chicago,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “It is incumbent on both management and labor to hold in mind the people of Chicago, who have a vested interest in the outcome of this complex and difficult task. The people rightfully expect the City and its unions to protect public funds and to reward and incentivize public service by providing fair compensation and treating workers with respect.”

The review can be found online.

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