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SLO schedules a binding arbitration vote

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The San Luis Obispo City Council voted to put binding arbitration on the ballot for an Aug. 30 vote.

On May 17, the council approved two measures for the ballot: One would offer voters the chance to repeal binding arbitration and another measure would allow the City Council to reduce employee benefits. Current city codes state that only the public can vote to reduce such benefits.

Both measures will be voted on in an all-mail special election, which has been allocated $110,000 to cover the cost.

City voters approved binding arbitration for firefighters and police in 2000. Under the practice, a mediator looks at employer and employee bargaining positions and determines the outcome.

Councilman John Ashbaugh voted against the election and the binding arbitration measure. He said the money could be better spent elsewhere and rejected the notion that eliminating binding arbitration would help the city’s financial situation. However, Ashbaugh stepped in line with the majority to put a measure on the ballot allowing the City Council to reduce employee benefits.

The council’s action came a day after SLO County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall rejected an attempt by the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association to prevent the special election.

The association sued the city May 3, claiming the City Council violated “meet and confer” laws when it voted to move ahead with the election. The union asked the court for a restraining order that would have temporarily prevented the City Council from setting an election date until the city fulfilled what the union claimed were its legal obligations. Crandall said the union hadn’t shown sufficient cause of “irreparable injury.” Alison Wilkinson, who represented the union, said the lawsuit would be on hold for the foreseeable future.

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