March 8, 2022 Labor and Public Employees Cmte, SB 319
Public Hearing Testimony of
Danté Bartolomeo, Commissioner
Department of Labor
Labor and Public Employees Committee
March 8, 2022
Good Morning Senator Kushner, Representative Porter, Senator Sampson, Representative Arora and members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with testimony regarding Senate Bill 319: AN ACT CONCERNING DEADLINES FOR ARBITRATION AWARDS. My name is Danté Bartolomeo and I am the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor.
The CT Department of Labor (DOL) opposes this proposed bill. This bill proposes to require all municipal arbitration cases under the Municipal Employees Relations Act (MERA) to be concluded within a six-month time frame from the commencement of the arbitration proceedings. There are significant concerns with imposing such a strict timeline for municipal arbitration cases. The primary goal of the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration is labor peace, meaning that settlement between the municipalities and the unions is always preferable to arbitration. Strict arbitration deadlines thwart that goal by limiting the amount of time that would be allowed to negotiate and instead forcing the parties to go forward with arbitration in order to meet the deadlines. Settlements, by their very nature, help preserve the collective bargaining relationship between the parties and should be sought after.
The proposed bill also removes any ability of the parties to agree to joint modifications or waivers of arbitration timelines. Parties are not forced to waive timeframes and any party that wishes for an arbitration to go forward on the originally set timeline simply does not have to agree to waive those deadlines and allow extensions. Furthermore, the language in the bill does not provide for an exception if unforeseen issues or emergencies arise, such as illness of panel members. Not allowing for flexibility in such circumstances can cause unwanted outcomes in arbitration proceedings.
This proposal also impacts teacher negotiations under the Teacher Negotiations Act (TNA). The TNA does not allow for any waiver of timeframes, and negotiations and arbitrations are tied to the Boards of Education budget submission dates. Many of the advocates, neutral arbitrators and panel members are based on the same pool of people for both MERA and TNA arbitrations. There simply are not enough of these professionals to proceed with both MERA and TNA negotiations and arbitrations at the same time if extensions are not allowed. As such, the parties would not have suitable options in moving forward.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony. I am available to answer any questions you may have.
Connecticut Department of Labor • www.ct.gov/dol
An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer