Measuring and Explaining Attitudes of Four Interest Groups toward Selected Aspects of Public Sector Interest Arbitration

Article excerpt

Four key assumptions about public sector interest arbitration are drawn from a review of the literature and four interest groups are identified. The degree of acceptance of these assumptions by the interest groups is measured and demographic explanations of the measured attitudes are explored. Results of the study suggest that public personnel managers can expect general acceptance of the assumptions among and between the interest groups. Results further suggest that education level is a key factor in acceptance of the use of public sector interest arbitration for impasse resolution.

M. Susan Rueschhoff is an Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Northern Iowa. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include meanand philosophies of work, and the interface between individuals and organizations, especially where such relationship, are defined by employment stat.

One of the responsibilities of public personnel managers is labor-management relations. In dealing with public employee unions, these managers must face the very real possibility of reaching an impasse in contract negotiations. In many cases, the use of strikes to resolve such impassess is illegal and public sector interest arbitration (PSIA) is used instead. The ability of public personnel managers to deal well with PSIA depends on how well they understand both the process of PSIA and the attitudes of those involved in the process. This paper aids that understanding by:

1. developing an understanding of selected key assumptions about PSIA.

2. measuring the attitudes of four interest groups toward those aspects, and

3. exploring demographic explanations of the variance in the attitudes held by the four interest groups.

The issues selected for this research are delineated in the literature on PSIA. A number of arguments have bene presented in the literature concerning the desirability or undesirability of PSIA and some attempts have been made to measure its positive and negative effects.

Two criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of PSIA emerge from the debate over PSIA:

1. the degree to which PSIA encourages collective bargaining, and

2.the degree to which PSIA prevents strikes.

These criteria are based on the following set of assumptions:

1. public sector employees have the right to participate in decision making concerning their wages and working conditions,

2.collective bargaining should be used in the public sector to set wages and working conditions for public employees,

3.the services provided by public sector employees are essential for the welfare of the general public, and

4.strikes by public sector employees are not acceptable.

Each of these assumptions is an attitude, and people vary in the degree to which they agree or disagree with each of these aspects of PSIA.

There are four groups that have an interest in PSIA; the general public, public sector employees, public sector employers, and the legislature. The doctrine of sovereignty holds that the public is the supreme power. Under this rubric, public opinion is the appropriate standard for testing normative premises.

A second group with a legitimate interest in PSIA is public sector employees. To the extent that their wages, hours and working conditions are determined by collective bargaining and the extent that PSIA shapes that bargaining process, public employees are vitally affected by the system of dispute resolution.

Public sector employers are affected by PSIA in much the same wsay as public sector employees. Again the system of dispute resolution is a determinant, at least in part, of wages, hours and working conditions. To the public manager, these factors translate into costs of operation.

The fourth party is the legislature. In this case, legitimate interest is a matter of legality. …