There are different ways Texas municipalities and cities can manage labor relations with local public employees. In this regard, size matters. The larger the community, the greater the possibility that police and firefighting employees have representation by unions and collective bargaining. Most Texas municipalities, though, have populations that allow them to manage these relationships in a less adversarial manner called meet and confer.
The idea behind meet and confer is to allow public employers and dedicated employee groups like those in the emergency response realm to work more cooperatively to:
- Meet at reasonable times and as issues arise
- Discuss in good faith, rather than bargain, about pay, hours and other working conditions.
- Execute any agreement that derives, and generate a contract if either side asks for one.
While the law aims to facilitate fruitful discussion, it also emphasizes that public safety demands prohibit actions such as strikes, lockouts, work slowdowns or stoppages by police and fire forces. In the event no agreement can be reached through meet and confer, possible reasonable alternatives allowed include going to arbitration.
In the absence of an agreement, the courts can be called upon to enforce requirements of the law
Understanding the options regarding municipal labor relations and what the options involve is crucial. This may be especially true in the current environment in which pressure for greater civilian oversight over large city police forces seems to be on the rise. Cities need strong legal representation to avoid potential disputes and to have confidence in their response should issues arise.