Boston Herald: Prevailing Wage Lessens Effect of Move to Flaggers

The Boston Herald reports today that Governor Patrick is not realizing the savings promised by the switch to flaggers from police officers due to the State Prevailing Wage law.  As you may remember he’s also allowed $174,000,000 of Federal Stimulus Money be wasted in the same manner.

Gov. Deval Patrick missed out on additional savings when he waved through high union pay rates for his supposedly cost-cutting civilian flagger program, according to economists and a lawmaker – a “lost opportunity” that could come back to haunt him during his re-election campaign.

The current prevailing wage rate for flaggers who work in the Bay State’s eastern division is $36.35 per hour, only slightly less than the average state police detail at $40 an hour. Under union negotiations, the civilian flagger rate is set to go up to $38.35 in two years.

Patrick administration officials last year indicated they would suggest unions renegotiate the flagger rates, because the ones currently on the books are from the 1930s, but that negotiation never happened, said Andy Bagley, research director for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

The problem is that current law states that the Commonwealth must pay whatever the unions ask for in effect. There is no incentive for either unions or the contractors that hire them to push for a lower rate.  While the rest of the economy is suffering wage deflation the prevailing wage continues to inflate.  

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