County police, fire unions seek vote on arbitration

Petition drive launched for Nov. referendum

April 03, 2002|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Police and firefighter unions in Baltimore County, seeking to win binding arbitration in future contract disputes, launched a petition drive yesterday in an effort to let county voters decide the issue.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 1311 and the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4 will need the signatures of 10,000 county voters to get the initiative on the November ballot.

If voters approve the proposal, the unions or county could request an arbitrator to resolve any impasse in contract negotiations. The arbitrator's decision would be binding on the parties and quicken contract talks, union leaders said.

"We feel this will help resolve thorny issues between the county and our police officers and firefighters quicker and more equitably," said Mike Day, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1311.

County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday that he opposes the arbitration process, a stance the county has long held.

"It should be the job of the county executive to make decisions that affect county taxpayers and employees, not some arbitrator," said Elise Armacost, a county spokeswoman.

Many other jurisdictions in Maryland have had the arbitration process for some time and it has helped to resolve labor agreements fairly and in a timely manner, union leaders said.

"We think this is an excellent method to resolve disputes more quickly while allowing our police officers and firefighters to focus on their jobs, not contract negotiations," Day said.

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