Bill would limit collective bargaining for public employees

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 1 2012 6:05 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to limit the negotiation points in collective bargaining between government bodies and public employees to two issues: salaries and health care benefits.

Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo — whose day job is an assistant principal in the Alpine School District — says the idea of his HB106 is good public policy and helps school districts and administrators better focus on student performance in the classroom.

“From district to district, there are different things in collective bargaining agreements that for the most part — 95 percent of them — do not focus on student achievement at all,” Grover said. “There’s no focus on student performance.”

Grover said Wednesday he’d really like to eliminate all collective bargaining in the state, but he didn’t want to make a “political statement.”

“This is not an attack, ironically this is not a political move,” Grover said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m focused on policy and not so excited about the politics of it.”

He said from a policy standpoint, it’s a good question for taxpayers and others to consider.

“The question needs to be raised — and what the answer is I guess we’ll find out — is why would collective bargaining be allowed for (public employees) to collectively bargain against the taxpayer.”

Grover acknowledged his measure would not be popular with teachers unions, and it isn’t with the Utah Education Association.

UEA spokesman Mike Kelley said the measure “really silences the voice of teachers.”

“There are a lot of things that are critical and important to teaching that are outside wages and benefits that should be discussed and considered between teachers and school boards,” Kelley said.

Kelley referenced a Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted in December on behalf of the UEA and other labor organizations that found the public supported public employee negotiations for things like working conditions over wages.

According to Kelley, the poll found that 81 percent of the 809 households surveyed support the ability of public workers to collectively bargain over wages. Eighty-six percent supported negotiation over health care, while 92 percent supported bargaining over working conditions and 97 percent supported negotiation over workplace safety issues, Kelley said.

Grover anticipates his bill will go before a committee next week, and he expects a healthy discussion.

“I think Utah — we really pride ourselves, being in the Legislature and the citizenry — we really like to think through the issues and question why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Grover said.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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