LANSING—In a move that is considered a victory for state employee unions, the Court of Appeals has ruled that before the state hires contractors to perform a service, it must obtain the approval of the Michigan Civil Service Commission.

The court ruled that a decision by the Commission in 1997 allowing state agencies to hire contractors without approval was unconstitutional, because the Michigan constitution stipulates Commission approval for all spending for state services. The Michigan Civil Service Commission is composed of four members appointed by the governor, with no more than two members being from the same political party.

The decision will bolster the cause of public employee unions, which see privatization as a threat to their jobs and livelihoods, and see the Civil Service Commission as being in their corner. At best, seeking Commission approval will pose yet another obstacle to Governor Engler's campaign to privatize an ever-greater number of government services in the hope of improving efficiency, providing better service and saving money for taxpayers.