State benefits from collective bargainingBarry Rascovar...


July 06, 1996

State benefits from collective bargaining

Barry Rascovar was correct about one thing in his op-ed piece, ''Boom times for bureaucrats'' (June 16), on collective bargaining for state employees.

Collective bargaining in most cases will lead to better labor-management relationships and more productivity.

Certainly, many businesses and governments across the country have had tremendous success with collective bargaining. There is no indication that the state of Maryland won't have the same result.

In issuing the executive order for collective bargaining, Gov. Parris N. Glendening sought to create a mechanism in Maryland that ensures employee participation by building a relationship of trust between employees and managers.

Today's competitive marketplace requires Maryland to develop a high-performance work force capable of competing with other jurisdictions. In fact, as the state moves through the difficult budget times, it is more important than ever that we establish partnership relationships with our workers to help find the most efficient and effective ways to deliver government services.

The assertion that unions are, ''by their nature, resistant to change that affects workers" is just plain wrong. Unions today must recognize that protecting the company's bottom line is as much in labor's best interest as it is in management's.

Take for example the recently negotiated settlement between the Teamsters union and Safeway in Landover.

The Teamsters made significant changes to their work rules to find the cost savings management needed to pay for an $85 million distribution facility.

Because there was a mechanism in place -- a collective bargaining agreement -- labor and management were able to work in partnership.

A U.S. Department of Labor Task Force on Excellence in State and Local Government found that labor-management cooperation that engaged employees in decision making typically resulted in better service, more cost effectiveness, better quality of work-life and improved labor-management relations.

In Ohio, labor and management formed a Quality Services through Partnership initiative that produced tangible results. From streamlining their purchasing process to adding life to their fleet vehicles, Ohio has found that the key to quality improvement is cooperation with the state's work force.

It is very interesting to note that Mr. Rascovar finds it a ''mystery'' how collective bargaining and personnel reform can work together.

Union groups may have worked against passage of the personnel reform legislation and the pay-for-performance provisions, but what is not mentioned is that Governor Glendening actively worked for its passage.

As I understand it, The Sun itself was just in the midst of labor negotiations in which it attempted to impose pay-for-performance provisions. Why is it a ''mystery'' when the state proposes it, but makes sense when The Sun proposes it?

Governor Glendening was well within his executive power to issue an executive order that establishes a limited form of collective bargaining for state employees. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. provided a written opinion concluding that not only was it consistent with the governor's power to set policy, but that it did not impose the kind of collective bargaining for which a statute is required.

Clearly, the governor believes in collective bargaining and its benefits for the state of Maryland. As any responsible governor would do, he has moved forward within the scope of his authority to establish a policy that will provide the state with the best mechanism for dealing with personnel matters.

Maybe Mr. Rascovar was right about one other thing: Perhaps by allowing state employees a role in the decisions that affect their work, maybe they will begin to experience ''boom times.'' Perhaps they will begin to feel ownership and pride in the work they do every day. And as that begins to happen, perhaps those so-called ''boom times'' will extend not only to our employees, but to all the citizens of Maryland as they begin to see more efficient uses of their tax dollars. I, for one, look forward to that time.

Eugene A. Conti Jr. Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Special needs kids need more from adults

The policeman who handcuffed an out-of-control 6-year-old perhaps did him a favor. Those handcuffs could be a key to opening handcuffs already placed on this child by the adults in his life. Because of this incident and the accompanying publicity, Jerrell might finally receive the help for which he has been begging.

Jerrell Murray has done his job since pre-school. By continuous acting-out behavior, he has been explaining his special needs in the only way young children know.

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