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EDITORIAL: Collective bargaining reform

Speaking of reforms, contract negotiations between Clark County and the SEIU continue to make the case for major changes in the state’s collective bargaining laws.

Under the current system, binding arbitration settles contract impasses. Thus, a single person who might not even live in Nevada and who isn’t accountable to voters, routinely determines personnel costs, the largest expense of any local government. And local officials, who are accountable to voters, shrug their shoulders.

Because arbitrators generally frown on offers that demand a concession without something given in return, local governments have to spend more money today to try to save money tomorrow. That’s why Clark County is now offering SEIU members an additional 1 percentage point increase in salary, a 2.5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, to get the union to agree to give up longevity pay for future hires. Longevity pay, which provides workers with an annual bonus equivalent to 0.57 percent of base pay for each year of service once they hit their eighth anniversary, is expected to cost the county $358 million over the next three decades, the Review-Journal’s Ben Botkin reported Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, the SEIU doesn’t want to give up longevity pay. So the county has to try to bribe the union to give it up for people who haven’t even been hired yet, because management doesn’t want to take the chance that an arbitrator will preserve the benefit in a multiyear contract.

The 2015 Legislature should end binding arbitration and give elected boards the final say in contract disputes. Governments shouldn’t have to spend taxpayer money to save money.

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