Another Setback for|Labor in Wisconsin

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – Wisconsin unions lost the right to bargain with state employers over the impact of the state’s healthcare plan on public employees, a state appeals court ruled.
     In its 2011-2013 state budget, the Legislature prohibited municipal employers from bargaining collectively over the “design and selection” of health care coverage for public employees, including “the impact of the design and selection of the health care coverage plans on the wages, hours, and conditions of employment.”
     This provision prompted the City of Milwaukee to modify the terms of its 2010-2012 labor agreement with the Milwaukee Police Association over “specific deductibles, co-pays, [and] prescription costs.”
     The Police Association sued the city, claiming the budget’s “design and selection” clause allows the city to choose a health plan, but says nothing to prohibit bargaining over the financial exposure the choice places on employees.
     The state circuit court granted the association an injunction, but the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on Tuesday.
     “It would make no sense for the Legislature to have granted to the City and other municipal employers the unilateral right to design and select health-care-coverage plans irrespective of the ‘impact’ the ‘design and selection’ has ‘on the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the public safety employee,’ but require bargaining on what the Association calls the ‘direct result’ on the public-safety employee’s finances,” Judge Ralph Fine wrote for the three-judge panel.
     Under the court’s reading of the Act, the “‘the impact of the design and selection of the health care coverage plans on the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the public safety employee’ is no longer a subject that a municipality may bargain with the unions representing public-service employees.”
     This ruling is separate from the battle over Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill,” which made broad changes to collective bargaining rights, state pension plans, and health insurance contributions.

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