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Race is on to impose contract terms on Detroit city unions

The race is on to impose new contracts on Detroit’s city unions, and city officials made the case for doing that before the Detroit City Council on Monday.

Detroit’s consent agreement with the state essentially allows it to get around the collective bargaining process.

Mayor Dave Bing has proposed new contract terms that will cut wages by 10 percent and drastically change work rules for most city workers.

But that’s not all. City officials also want the power to alter contract terms at almost any point.

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Brown, says the city needs the “flexibility” to make changes, like reinstituting furlough days, if necessary.

“It’s better to go for a week furlough, or a brownout, in terms of certain city services than to start laying people off,” Brown said.

Even if the City Council votes the new contract terms down, city officials could go ahead and impose them anyway.

But they’d have to wait another 30 days—something Bing says could trigger another cash crisis, and the appointment of an emergency manager.

City union leaders are urging the Council to call that bluff, and vote down the new terms.

“At the very least, I’m asking for 30 days. If they’ve got the right to impose it, it gives us 30 more days to work our way through this thing,” pleaded Al Garrett, President of AFSCME Council 25.

The Council could vote on the issue Tuesday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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