Labor Relation in Public Sector Assessment

Excerpt from Assessment :

Labor Relations in Public Sector

Collective bargaining in the public sector organizations will be quite different from that of the private sector organizations. The factors that drive the collective bargaining process in the private sector might not be present in the public sector. Private sector organizations are more concerned on the profit maximization philosophy whereas the public sector firms are more focused on serving general public therefore their priorities would be totally different and management approaches to collective bargaining would also be different. Moreover, private sector firms project for long-term budget forecasting, whereas in the public sector it is managed through third party legislature depending on the voters. These create challenges for the public sector to formulate a policy document that looks after the labor relations.

The Public Employees Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law, is a labor relations ruling policy document that covers public employees in New York State in whichever domain they are employed whether be it in city, village, school districts, public authorities or certain special service districts. It came into force on September 1, 1967 and was the first comprehensive labor relations law for public employees in the States. The purpose of Taylor law was to grant public employees the right to organize and be represented by the organizations of their own choice. The law has encouraged public employers to negotiate and enter into agreements with public employee organizations relating to the employment terms and conditions. Taylor law has established the procedures for the resolution of collective bargaining disputes, outlined and forbid unacceptable practices by the public employers and public employee organization and discouraged strikes by public employees. For the purpose of institutionalizing the proper functioning of labor relation body it has established state agency to administer the Law called The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

comprehensive labor management relations legislation

The innovators in labor relations law enforcements like Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Connecticut had formulated their legislations on the National Labor Relation Act. Even the proceeding labor relation acts were also structured on the NLRA principals guided on the topics of employee labor rights, scope of bargaining, unit determination and recognition, unfair labor practices and other bargaining topics. The main provisions of the comprehensive labor management relations legislation deal in the areas of:

1. Employee rights

2. Employer rights

3. Administrative agency

4. Unit determination

5. Recognition procedure

6. Scope of bargaining

7. Impasse Resolution procedure

8. Union Security

9. Unfair Labor Practices.

The administration of the State New York Labor relations legislation affirms that it is a public policy of the state and the purpose of this act is to promote pleasant and supportive relationships between government and its employees. It also promises to protect the public by confirming the orderly and continuous operations and functions of government. These policies are workable through the supporting the public employees the right of organization and representation; require the state, local government and other political subdivisions to negotiate with and engage in written agreements with employee organizations representing public employees which have been certified and recognized; encouraging these agencies on the dispute resolution matters; establishing public employment relations board to assist in resolving disputes between employees and public employers and creating a peaceful working environment free from any violating activities.

New York State Labor Policy Reform

Local government officials and government affiliated agencies are finding ways to overcome cost intensive projects, working on lowering cost and improving efficiency, restructuring and reinvention in the government sector has now became a common slogan. Labor cost is the foremost element of the government agencies which is high in expenditure therefore it's wise enough to restructure labor unit first in public sector. It can be very lucrative for the government sector to adapt the transformative model followed by the private sector that has the policies of labor cost cuts in the form of downsize, utilize temporary workers, out-sourcing, wages cut and reduction in benefits and investment in labor saving assets. Government agencies can't adopt any of such feasible option for labor cost cut because they have some responsibility towards public service which they can't ignore.

To restructure government to cope with the economic challenges faced by United States in today's era requires sound knowledge of the rights and responsibilities regarding civil service employees. The New York State government is the most unionized civil servants in the nation, and the State has well defined policy document for civil service law in the structure of Taylor Law. The main points of the Taylor Law applicable to local government fair employment and labor representatives are discussed in the following text. The halt in public services had made serious implication on the citizen; this had forced New York State law to prohibit public sector strike. The government had to shift from penalty-based system to prevention-based system when it has seen no effect on the labor sector even when harsh penalties were imposed on striking workers. It was estimated that in the late 1960s the strikes had crippled the whole city and cost around $100 million a day.

Thus Taylor law imposed in 1967 allowed union formation and provides a system for labor management and conflict resolution. Public employers were responsible to negotiate in good faith with the union representatives of a bargaining committee. The law has set forth certain bargaining issues which are actually the conditions of employment to be initially discussed between the public employer and union representatives. These terms and conditions are structured in the form of the body named the Public Employees Relations Boards (PERB). Its purpose was to manage labor relations and to adjudicate any unresolved disputes. PERB can get involved in any phase of the negotiation process, on request of either party or on the board's own initiative. PERB has the powers to prevent improper practices of negotiation which also includes bad faith negotiation and penalize them who are involved in improper practices. The board can only have control on the organizing and negotiating processes. The outcome of the collective bargaining can't be controlled via PERB. Collective Bargaining Process in the light of Taylor Law

Taylor law when prohibits strike by the labor associations it has strong believe in the notion that No strikes means high level of bargaining skills. The legal framework has strong conviction that negotiation can kill all the barriers of communication and make the work environment for labor force more conducive to work.

In the light of Taylor Law, public employers are required to negotiate with the unions or employee group on the mandatory bargaining issues. The topic of discussion under the mandatory bargaining issues could be wages, medical benefits, health insurance, and vacation and leave plans, reimbursement of expenses and allowances, retirement benefits and disciplinary rules. Job security is not considered as a condition of employment thus it is not a mandatory issue for bargaining. Job grades according to the salary range are also not part of mandatory issues of discussion.

Subcontracting Government services

Subcontracting of the government services is also main form of restructuring the public sector services and it contributes main element of mandatory issue in bargaining discussion. PERB decisions have established two broad criteria for services to be subcontracted that should be collectively bargained it says unionized workers are providing the services exclusively and the subcontracted work should be same as the work conducted by the unionized employees.

Downsizing in light of Taylor Law

When restructuring the public sector services in the way of reducing labor cost and bringing out more efficiency there is one big question for discussion is that is downsizing government services legal in the light of Taylor Law? The answer to it is yes. The objective of civil service legislation is to protect efficient public employees not preventing the department from…

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