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200515186-001Several Detroit public safety unions were steaming mad after Mayor Dave Bing’s top labor negotiator sent letters to union leaders and state officials this week saying the city no longer has to bargain now that an emergency manager is in charge of the city.

But the city’s labor relations director, Lamont Satchel, told the Free Press today that earlier reports indicating Detroit would no longer honor labor contracts with the city’s police and fire unions were incorrect.

A letter from Satchel dated April 1 to the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association said that because Detroit was put under receivership March 28,

“the city is no longer obligated to participate in collective bargaining” or mediation on changes to successor labor contracts.

Satchel said that means only that the Bing administration is no longer required to negotiate directly with public safety unions on future contracts, but terms of contracts already in place will be honored.

Media reports that said the city now considered itself free from collective bargaining agreements were erroneous, Satchel said.

Satchel sent similar letters to officials at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission and the state Bureau of Employment Relations saying the duty to bargain no longer applies to successor labor contracts with the Detroit Police Officers Association, Detroit Police Lieutenant and Sergeants Association, Detroit Firefighters Association and the Police Officers Association of Michigan, which represents EMS workers.

Still, Bill Nowling, a spokesman for emergency manager Kevyn Orr, said he understands how union leaders could have interpreted the letters to mean the city no longer would honor labor contracts.

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