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Arbitration Might be Springfield’s Last Hope to Settle Municipal Employee Contract Disputes

Thursday, November, 7, 2013


The City of Springfield, Massachusetts has now turned to arbitration to settle contract disputes within 10 of its 11 municipal unions.  The contracts, which expired over a year ago, include labor agreements with municipal workers such as police, public works personnel, parks personnel and clerical workers.  Contracts for the city’s teachers and school administrators have already been negotiated successfully. 


According to William E. Mahoney, the city’s director of human resources and labor relations, “The city has engaged in multiple bargaining sessions with our unions and looks forward to getting these contracts completed.” After unsuccessful negotiations and mediation sessions, all hopes are turning to an arbitration panel to settle the contract disputes. 


Although the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 364, representing Springfield patrolmen, requested mediation to resolve their own contract dispute with the city, they later requested arbitration after the mediation sessions failed.  The Massachusetts Joint Labor Management Committee panel then arbitrated the dispute and Local 364 is awaiting their ruling.  


“Everyone is anxious to see a new contract in place,” says Kevin Coyle, the attorney representing the police union.  He also reiterated the instability that is currently status quo within the city and his hopes that the arbitration ruling would help eliminate that. 


Although the police officers’ union has already gone through the arbitration process through a “closure mechanism” written into Massachusetts state law, the police supervisors, firefighters and fire supervisors of Springfield have not yet turned to arbitration.  They are still in the process of mediation with the state’s Division of Labor Relations and the Joint Labor Management Committee in hopes of reaching a mediated agreement before taking further steps.