City of Brooklyn Center receives split interest arbitration award with LELS

Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., Local 82 challenged the City’s wage proposals, and a number of other compensation related items in the collective bargaining agreement.  Evidence was presented on the City’s ability to pay, economic conditions, internal comparisons, external comparisons, unemployment, inflation, and employee retention.  The parties’ disputed many of the issues, including the appropriate comparator group for external comparisons.  The union argued for a comparison with 24 cities, while the City sought a comparison to 8 cities.  The City argued that the Police Officers’ unit should receive a lesser increase for 2012 and 2013 than other groups whose contracts had already settled – other groups had received 2% increases and the employer sought to provide a 1% increase.

On February 9, 2012, Arbitrator Thomas Gallagher rendered his award. Based on his analysis of the external and internal comparators, the arbitrator awarded a 2% increase for each year.  One key to Arbitrator Gallagher’s rationale was internal consistency:  “As employers often argue in interest arbitration, internal comparison should be given greater consideration than external comparison, unless the external market shows substantially disparate comparison.”  The arbitrator awarded a slight increase in monthly longevity pay, and on-call pay.  The arbitrator, however, awarded the employer’s position on insurance, finding that the employer had provided the same insurance benefits to all of its employees for nearly 15 years, and the employer had a remarkable pattern of internal consistency for union and non-union employees.   The arbitrator also determined that the employer’s proposal to apportion the cost reduction in medical insurance premiums (of about 17% to 20%) between it and the employees was reasonable.

Attorney Greg Wiley counsels his clients that arbitrators will frequently apply an internal settlement pattern, whether the employer or union seeks to apply it.