Public Safety Arbitration Award Reform Needed

A recent Scranton Times-Tribune article – In region’s tough times, it pays to be in a municipal union – explored the disparity between the generous pay increases granted to public sector unions in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton since 2000 through arbitration awards versus the median pay for full-time male workers in those same cities.

The article and subsequent editorial – “Leapfrog takes cities over cliff” – features comments from PEL Central Executive Director Gerald Cross on the issue:

Mr. Cross said police and firefighters benefit from the arbitration process, which is insulated from the “market conditions” that other workers must live with. In the meantime, arbitrators regularly point to higher police and firefighter salaries in other cities to justify award raises in the cases before them.

That produces an ongoing “leap-frog effect,” with arbitrator repeating the method over and over and producing ever-higher salaries, he said.

“It isn’t against fire and police,” Mr. Cross said of his opinion that the law should change. “The discussion is how can we continue to afford public services, and continue to restrict municipalities abilities to pay for them … No one argues that a firefighter’s job isn’t valuable, a policeman’s job isn’t valuable. It’s a risky job.”